Supplemental Costs of Retractions

When a scientific paper is withdrawn from the literature it can have a spill-over effect, researchers show.

Tracy Vence

WIKIMEDIA, LOTYRetractions of scientific publications can have a spill-over effect in which papers in related disciplines are subsequently cited less often, according MIT economist Pierre Azoulay and his colleagues. In an analysis published in The Review of Economics and Statistics in June, Azoulay’s team showed that, “following retraction and relative to carefully selected controls, related articles experience a lasting five to ten percent decline in the rate of citations received.” Retractions, the team reported, can also negatively impact future funding decisions in these related fields.

In a statement, however, Azoulay made clear that retractions are necessary components of academic publishing. “A well-functioning, transparent retraction process is actually part and parcel of the scientific system,” he said. “We need a system where . . . journals help the readers spell out the reasons for the retractions, and help the scientific community parse the implications for the forward movement of...

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