In academic publishing, a retraction is a mechanism by which a published paper in an academic journal is flagged for being seriously flawed to the extent that their results and conclusions can no longer be relied upon. Retracted articles are not removed from the published literature but marked as retracted. In some cases it may be necessary to remove an article from publication, such as when the article is clearly defamatory, violates personal privacy, is the subject of a court order, or might pose a serious health risk to the general public.[1]


A retraction may be initiated by the editors of a journal, or by the author(s) of the papers (or their institution). Retractions are typically accompanied by a retraction notice written by the editors or authors explaining the reason for the retraction. Such notices may also include a note from the authors with apologies for the previous error and/or expressions of gratitude to persons who disclosed the error to the author.[2] Retractions must not be confused with small corrections in published articles.

There have been numerous examples of retracted scientific publications. Retraction Watch provides updates on new retractions, and discusses general issues in relation to retractions.[3][4]


A 2011 paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics attempted to quantify retraction rates in PubMed over time to determine if the rate was increasing, even while taking into account the increased number of overall publications occurring each year.[5] The author found that the rate of increase in retractions was greater than the rate of increase in publications. Moreover, the author notes the following:

"It is particularly striking that the number of papers retracted for fraud increased more than sevenfold in the 6 years between 2004 and 2009. During the same period, the number of papers retracted for a scientific mistake did not even double..." (p. 251).[5]

Although the author suggests that his findings may indeed indicate a recent increase in scientific fraud, he also acknowledges other possibilities. For example, increased rates of fraud in recent years may simply indicate that journals are doing a better job of policing the scientific literature than they have in the past. Furthermore, because retractions occur for a very small percentage of overall publications (fewer than 1 in 1,000 articles[6][7]), a few scientists who are willing to commit large amounts of fraud can highly impact retraction rates. For example, the author points out that Jan Hendrik Schön fabricated results in 15 retracted papers in the dataset he reviewed, all of which were retracted in 2002 and 2003, "so he alone was responsible for 56% of papers retracted for fraud in 2002—2003" (p 252).[5]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, academia had seen a quick increase in fast-track peer-review articles dealing with SARS-CoV-2 problems.[8] As a result, a number of papers have been retracted made "Retraction Tsunami"[9] due to quality and/or data issues, leading many experts to ponder not just the quality of peer review but also standards of retraction practices.[10]

Retracted studies may continue to be cited. This may happen in cases where scholars are unaware of the retraction, in particular when the retraction occurs long after the original publication.[11]

Notable retractions

Retraction for error

Retraction for fraud or misconduct

Retraction for ethical violations

Retraction over data provenance

Retraction over public relations issues

See also


  1. ^ "Retraction guidelines". COPE: Committee on Publication Ethics. Retrieved 2023-05-28.
  2. ^ Vuong, Q.-H. (2020). "The limitations of retraction notices and the heroic acts of authors who correct the scholarly record: An analysis of retractions of papers published from 1975 to 2019". Learned Publishing. 33 (2): 119–130. doi:10.1002/leap.1282.
  3. ^ Kleinert, Sabine (2009). "COPE's retraction guidelines". The Lancet. 374 (9705): 1876–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)62074-2. PMID 19962558. S2CID 22313713.
  4. ^ Strauss, Stephen (April 7, 2011). "Searching for truth in published research". CBC News.
  5. ^ a b c Steen, R. G. (2011). Retractions in the scientific literature: Is the incidence of research fraud increasing? Journal of Medical Ethics, 37(4), 249-253. doi: 10.1136/jme.2010.040923.
  6. ^ a b Errors Trigger Retraction Of Study On Mediterranean Diet's Heart Benefits
  7. ^ "Two Cheers for the Retraction Boom" (retrieven October 5, 2018)
  8. ^ Vuong, Quan-Hoang (2020-06-11). "Reform retractions to make them more transparent". Nature. 582 (7811): 149. Bibcode:2020Natur.582..149V. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-01694-x. ISSN 0028-0836. S2CID 219529301.
  9. ^ Heidary, Fatemeh; Gharebaghi, Reza (2021). "COVID-19 impact on research and publication ethics". Medical Hypothesis, Discovery & Innovation in Ophthalmology. 10 (1): 1–4. doi:10.51329/mehdiophthal1414. ISSN 2322-3219. S2CID 236407601.
  10. ^ Vuong, Q.-H. (2020). "Reform retractions to make them more transparent". Nature. 582 (7811): 149. Bibcode:2020Natur.582..149V. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-01694-x.
  11. ^ LaCroix, Travis; Geil, Anders; O'Connor, Cailin (2020). "The Dynamics of Retraction in Epistemic Networks". Philosophy of Science. 88 (3): 415–438. doi:10.1086/712817. ISSN 0031-8248. S2CID 204791890.
  12. ^ Séralini, Gilles-Eric; Clair, Emilie; Mesnage, Robin; Gress, Steeve; Defarge, Nicolas; Malatesta, Manuela; Hennequin, Didier; De Vendômois, Joël Spiroux (2012). "RETRACTED: Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 50 (11): 4221–31. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005. PMID 22999595.
  13. ^ Wu, Qiushi; Lu, Kangjie (2021-04-26). "Retraction of paper" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  14. ^ University of Minnesota, Department of Computer Science & Engineering (2021-04-27). "Response Linux Foundation". Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  15. ^ Chawla, Dalmeet (2020). "Russian journals retract more than 800 papers after 'bombshell' investigation". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aba8099. S2CID 212885229. Retrieved 2022-04-19.
  16. ^ "Cornell finds that food marketing researcher Brian Wansink committed misconduct, as he announces retirement". Retraction Watch. 2018-09-20. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  17. ^ "A Prominent Researcher on Eating Habits Resigned After a Scandal Over His Studies". Time Inc. 2018-09-21. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  18. ^ "This Ivy League food scientist was a media darling. He just submitted his resignation, the school says". The Washington Post. 2018-09-20. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  19. ^ "JAMA journals retract six papers by food marketing researcher Brian Wansink". Retraction Watch. 2018-09-19. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  20. ^ Oransky, Ivan (2018-12-05). "The Joy of Cooking, vindicated: Journal retracts two more Brian Wansink papers". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  21. ^ "Retraction Watch Database - Brian Wansink". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  22. ^ Elaine Lies (4 June 2014). "Japan researcher agrees to withdraw disputed stem cell paper". Reuters. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  23. ^ "STAP paper co-author Sasai commits suicide". The Japan Times. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  24. ^ "Retraction: Enhanced Inhibition of Tumour Growth and Metastasis, and Induction of Antitumour Immunity by IL-2-IgG2b Fusion Protein". Scandinavian Journal of Immunology. 73 (3): 266. 2011. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3083.2011.02519.x. PMID 21391334. The retraction has been agreed due to a finding of scientific misconduct within the laboratory where the experiments took place, and was brought to our attention by the scientific community.
  25. ^ "Misconduct in science: An array of errors". The Economist. 10 September 2011.
  26. ^ The Editors of The Lancet (2010). "Retraction—Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children". The Lancet. 375 (9713): 445. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-4. PMID 20137807. S2CID 26364726.
  27. ^ Lerner, Jennifer S.; Gonzalez, Roxana M.; Dahl, Ronald E.; Hariri, Ahmad R.; Taylor, Shelley E. (2005-11-01). "RETRACTED: Facial Expressions of Emotion Reveal Neuroendocrine and Cardiovascular Stress Responses". Biological Psychiatry. 58 (9): 743–750. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.08.011. ISSN 0006-3223. PMID 16256075. S2CID 8012999.
  28. ^ "Call for retraction of 400 scientific papers amid fears organs came from Chinese prisoners". the Guardian. 2019-02-05. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  29. ^ Rogers, Wendy; Robertson, Matthew P.; Ballantyne, Angela; Blakely, Brette; Catsanos, Ruby; Clay-Williams, Robyn; Singh, Maria Fiatarone (2019-02-01). "Compliance with ethical standards in the reporting of donor sources and ethics review in peer-reviewed publications involving organ transplantation in China: a scoping review". BMJ Open. 9 (2): e024473. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024473. ISSN 2044-6055. PMC 6377532. PMID 30723071.
  30. ^ Oransky, Author Ivan (2020-04-15). "Journals have retracted or flagged more than 40 papers from China that appear to have used organ transplants from executed prisoners". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 2022-04-15. ((cite web)): |first= has generic name (help)
  31. ^ Dyer, Owen (2019-08-20). "Journals retract 15 Chinese transplantation studies over executed prisoner concerns". BMJ. 366: l5220. doi:10.1136/bmj.l5220. ISSN 0959-8138. PMID 31431427. S2CID 201116938.
  32. ^ Dyer, Owen (2017-02-10). "Journal retracts Chinese paper because transplanted livers couldn't be traced". BMJ. 356: j746. doi:10.1136/bmj.j746. ISSN 0959-8138. PMID 28188135. S2CID 31293192.
  33. ^ a b Mehra, Mandeep R.; Desai, Sapan S.; Ruschitzka, Frank; Patel, Amit N (2020-05-22). "RETRACTED: Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis". The Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31180-6. PMC 7255293. PMID 32450107. Archived from the original on 2020-06-07. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  34. ^ Boseley, Sarah (2020-06-04). "How were medical journals and WHO caught out over hydroxychloroquine?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2020-06-07.
  35. ^ Boseley, Sarah; Davey, Melissa (2020-06-04). "Covid-19: Lancet retracts paper that halted hydroxychloroquine trials". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2020-06-07. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  36. ^ Liu, Ming-Jin; Xiong, Cai-Hua; Xiong, Le; Huang, Xiao-Lin (January 5, 2016). "Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living". PLOS ONE. 11 (1): e0146193. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1146193L. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0146193. PMC 4701170. PMID 26730579. (Retracted)
  37. ^ "Reviewing #Creatorgate: Is God a Scientific Proposition? - Articles". BioLogos. Retrieved 2022-01-03.

Further reading