Should a Scientific Paper be Retracted Due to Serious Errors? Consensus: Yes

Scientific papers are the life blood of science, but some poor ones get through the net

This is happening far more often today.

Examples are Seralini on the alledged ill-effects of GMO

GMO EU actionDanger of GMO

and some health studies on fracking e.g. fracking causes cancer



It is not good enough to say it’s OK as science moves on, but scientific papers need to be rigorous.

As a historian of geology I am aware that the “best papers of the day” can turn out to be flawed. Tow examples are from about 1840. One is Darwin’s famous Glen Roy paper on the parallel roads of Glen roy which rejected glaciation and the the other is the less well-known paper by John Eddowes Bowman on the lack of glaciation in North Wales. Both turned out to be wrong but were sound science


The Honest Broker

dataThese are some notes for my future reference on editorial policies of major scientific publishers on retraction. Most publishers have retraction policies (see: Resnik, D. B., Wager, E., & Kissling, G. E. (2015). Retraction policies of top scientific journals ranked by impact factorJournal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA103(3), 136.).

Many, if not most, publishers rely on guidance provided by the Committee on Publication Ethics (here in PDF), and more generally here. COPE states: “Retraction is a mechanism for correcting the literature and alerting readers to publications that contain such seriously flawed or erroneous data that their findings and conclusions cannot be relied upon. Unreliable data may result from honest error or from research misconduct.”

Here are some guidelines from different publishers, with my present focus on cases of flawed data that underpins published results (there are obviously other reasons for retraction):

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