“To err is human,” according to the 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope.
Human error is not uncommon, even in the area of scientific investigations. But the number of scientific papers that are published and later retracted has increased exponentially within just the past decade.
A retraction, according to a recent news feature in the journal Nature, is “science’s ultimate post-publication punishment…the official declaration that a paper is so flawed that it must be withdrawn from the literature.”1
“In the early 2000s, only about 30 retraction notices appeared annually. This year, the Web of Science is on track to index more than 400…even though the total number of papers published has risen by only 44% over the past decade,” according to the report.1
Of those retractions, about 28 percent were due to “honest error” and 11 percent were for studies that had irreproducible results. However, a surprising 44 percent of retractions were due to misconduct, which further broke down into 11 percent for falsification/fabrication, 17 percent for self-plagiarism, and 16 percent for plagiarism.
The Web of Science, the online academic citation index of Thomson Reuters, issued almost 30 retraction notices for Nature papers between 2001 and 2010. Pubmed issued over 40.
In 2009, a study published in the online journal PLoS ONE examined a host of survey data and found that about 2 percent of scientists admitted to falsifying research at least once and up to 34 percent admitted other questionable research practices. Additionally, about 14 percent had observed their colleagues falsifying data and up to 72 percent had witnessed the use of questionable practices….
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