New Journal Scrutinizes the Research Process

Studies in Research Integrity and Peer Review analyze ethics and quality in both science and publishing.

May 3, 2016
Kerry Grens

PUBLICDOMAINIMAGES, PETR KRATOCHVILA new online publication dedicated to studies on quality in science and scientific publishing launched today (May 3), with papers on the repercussions of a retraction, guidelines for producing clinical study reports, and more.

“We need to consider questions such as what causes research to give misleading results, what tempts researchers to cheat, and how best to report and disseminate research findings,” the editors of Research Integrity and Peer Review wrote in an introductory editorial. “In other words, we need research into research, and we need somewhere to publish these findings.”

Peer review at Research Integrity and Peer Review is done openly: authors know who is refereeing their paper, and the reviewers’ assessments are published alongside accepted manuscripts.

In one of the journal’s inaugural publications, Paul van der Vet of the Netherlands Bioinformatics Center and Harm Nijveen of Wageningen Unviersity, the Netherlands, reported on their examination of citations a retracted paper received before and after it was pulled from the literature—as well as the citations earned among those papers referencing the retracted article.

Although the study in question was pulled from Nature in 2014, 57 papers cited it in 2015, van der Vet and Nijveen found. The 1,626 papers subsequently citing these 57, however, did not perpetuate spreading the erroneous results, the authors concluded after reading all of the papers.

“Although a single case study can of course never rule out that retracted results propagate through articles with indirect citations . . . we think that in environments with accessible literature and proper citing behaviour, spreading of retracted results through indirectly citing articles is not a probable event,” van der Vet and Nijveen wrote in their paper.

“I think this study clearly demonstrates that retracted results can stay within the body of literature through the citation network,” Adrian Letchford of the University of Warwick, U.K., who was not involved in the work told Retraction Watch. Letchford added that it would be valuable to see how other retracted papers stick around in the literature. “This would allow us to see how common this is, and find out if it is only a problem for prestigious journals, or for every journal.”