Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: recommendations from the RISRS report

Research Integrity and Peer Review 7 (1) (2022)
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Background Retraction is a mechanism for alerting readers to unreliable material and other problems in the published scientific and scholarly record. Retracted publications generally remain visible and searchable, but the intention of retraction is to mark them as “removed” from the citable record of scholarship. However, in practice, some retracted articles continue to be treated by researchers and the public as valid content as they are often unaware of the retraction. Research over the past decade has identified a number of factors contributing to the unintentional spread of retracted research. The goal of the Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: Shaping a Research and Implementation Agenda (RISRS) project was to develop an actionable agenda for reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science. This included identifying how retraction status could be more thoroughly disseminated, and determining what actions are feasible and relevant for particular stakeholders who play a role in the distribution of knowledge. Methods These recommendations were developed as part of a year-long process that included a scoping review of empirical literature and successive rounds of stakeholder consultation, culminating in a three-part online workshop that brought together a diverse body of 65 stakeholders in October–November 2020 to engage in collaborative problem solving and dialogue. Stakeholders held roles such as publishers, editors, researchers, librarians, standards developers, funding program officers, and technologists and worked for institutions such as universities, governmental agencies, funding organizations, publishing houses, libraries, standards organizations, and technology providers. Workshop discussions were seeded by materials derived from stakeholder interviews (N = 47) and short original discussion pieces contributed by stakeholders. The online workshop resulted in a set of recommendations to address the complexities of retracted research throughout the scholarly communications ecosystem. Results The RISRS recommendations are: (1) Develop a systematic cross-industry approach to ensure the public availability of consistent, standardized, interoperable, and timely information about retractions; (2) Recommend a taxonomy of retraction categories/classifications and corresponding retraction metadata that can be adopted by all stakeholders; (3) Develop best practices for coordinating the retraction process to enable timely, fair, unbiased outcomes; and (4) Educate stakeholders about pre- and post-publication stewardship, including retraction and correction of the scholarly record. Conclusions Our stakeholder engagement study led to 4 recommendations to address inadvertent citation of retracted research, and formation of a working group to develop the Communication of Retractions, Removals, and Expressions of Concern (CORREC) Recommended Practice. Further work will be needed to determine how well retractions are currently documented, how retraction of code and datasets impacts related publications, and to identify if retraction metadata (fails to) propagate. Outcomes of all this work should lead to ensuring retracted papers are never cited without awareness of the retraction, and that, in public fora outside of science, retracted papers are not treated as valid scientific outputs.



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Jodi Schneider
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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