Citing retracted papers

Over the holidays I stumbled onto this blog post (from Retraction Watch), which has kindly calculated how many times retracted papers have been cited.

Both before retraction (forgivable, you didn’t know it was going to be retracted) and after retraction. How are these papers still being cited?

I’m taking a unkind view of this, and blaming everyone. I blame the authors for citing a paper that shouldn’t be citable. I blame reviewers of that paper for not realizing that their discussion or research is built on faulty evidence. I’m blaming publishers for not doing a better job conveying that something should not be common knowledge.

But I’m in my post holiday sugar slump. It’s possible I’m taking too harsh a view. Anyone else? Am I missing something?

 

Article Year of retraction Cites before retraction Cites after retraction Total cites
1. Visfatin: A protein secreted by visceral fat that mimics the effects of insulin. SCIENCE, JAN 21 2005Fukuhara A, Matsuda M, Nishizawa M, Segawa K, Tanaka M, Kishimoto K, Matsuki Y, Murakami M, Ichisaka T, Murakami H, Watanabe E, Takagi T, Akiyoshi M, Ohtsubo T, Kihara S, Yamashita S, Makishima M, Funahashi T, Yamanaka S, Hiramatsu R, Matsuzawa Y, Shimomura I.

 

   2007 247 776 1023
2. Purification and ex vivo expansion of postnatal human marrow mesodermal progenitor cells. BLOOD,  NOV 1 2001Reyes M, Lund T, Lenvik T, Aguiar D, Koodie L, Verfaillie CM.

 

2009 655 214 869
3. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. LANCET, FEB 28 1998Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, Linnell J, Casson DM, Malik M, Berelowitz M, Dhillon AP, Thomson MA, Harvey P, Valentine A, Davies SE, Walker-Smith JA.

 

2010 675 308 983
4. An enhanced transient expression system in plants based on suppression of gene silencing by the p19 protein of tomato bushy stunt virus. PLANT JOURNAL, MAR 2003Voinnet O, Rivas S, Mestre P, Baulcombe D.

 

2015 897 N/A 897
5. Viral pathogenicity determinants are suppressors of transgene silencing in Nicotiana benthamiana. EMBO JOURNAL, NOV 16 1998Brigneti G, Voinnet O, Li WX, Ji LH, Ding SW, Baulcombe DC.

 

2015 792 N/A 792
6. TREEFINDER: a powerful graphical analysis environment for molecular phylogenetics. BMC EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, JUN 28 2004Jobb G, von Haeseler A, Strimmer K.

 

2015 748 N/A 748
7. Spontaneous human adult stem cell transformation. CANCER RESEARCH, APR 15 2005Rubio D, Garcia-Castro J, Martín MC, de la Fuente R, Cigudosa JC, Lloyd AC, Bernad A.

 

2010 371 269 640
8. Combination treatment of angiotensin-II receptor blocker and angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor in non-diabetic renal disease (COOPERATE): a randomised controlled trial. LANCET, JAN 11 2003Nakao N, Yoshimura A, Morita H, Takada M, Kayano T, Ideura T.

 

2009 572 101 673
9. A pleiotropically acting microRNA, miR-31, inhibits breast cancer metastasis. CELL, JUN 12 2009Valastyan S, Reinhardt F, Benaich N, Calogrias D, Szász AM, Wang ZC, Brock JE, Richardson AL, Weinberg RA.

 

2015 530 N/A 530
10. Regression of human metastatic renal cell carcinoma after vaccination with tumor cell-dendritic cell hybrids. NATURE MEDICINE, MAR 2000Kugler A, Stuhler G, Walden P, Zöller G, Zobywalski A, Brossart P, Trefzer U, Ullrich S, Müller CA, Becker V, Gross AJ, Hemmerlein B, Kanz L, Müller GA, Ringert RH.

 

2003 348 166 514
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3 comments on “Citing retracted papers

  1. bchaller says:

    OK, I’ll bite. How is this supposed to work? How do *you* ensure that you don’t cite retracted papers? (Since you blame everyone, with such vitriol, I assume you know that you are not yourself guilty of this crime, and thus you have some workflow that prevents it.) I’ve got an EndNote library with many thousands of papers in it, including all their PDFs. When I’m writing a paper of my own, I work from my EndNote library. There is no mechanism in this process for papers in my library to be invalidated if they are retracted; that would be nice, but it doesn’t exist. Similarly, I have never seen any evidence that any journal I have submitted to has ever checked for the retraction of a cited paper. So what do *you* do? Do you manually surf to the journal’s website, for every paper you cite in every paper you’re an author on, to check whether each paper might have been retracted since the last time you checked? And then I assume you do it again, periodically, throughout the review process for your paper, since a paper you cite could be retracted at any time?

  2. Jeremy Yoder says:

    Yeah, I’m going to have to agree with a lot of bchaller’s take here. Even keeping an eye on Retraction Watch, as I do, I’m pretty sure there’s a non-zero chance that if a paper’s retracted after it’s in my PDF library, I’d miss that notification.

    Retraction should certainly prevent *entirely new* citations, but there’s often a long lag between reading a paper for the first time and citing it in a peer-reviewed article, and I don’t see how you prevent citations slipping through without a lot of extra work on someone’s part. Maybe journal editorial staff?

  3. There is also the possibility that a paper is being cited post-retraction for illustrative purposes of why it was retracted, i.e., did not take this path in my research because it was previously taken and has been repudiated. As for rechecking validity of sources before final submission, yes, it is work, but standard practice in a lot of fields, e.g., law.

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