J Med Ethics 34:807-809 doi:10.1136/jme.2007.023069
  • Research ethics

Empirical developments in retraction

  1. B K Redman1,2,
  2. H N Yarandi2,
  3. J F Merz1
  1. 1
    Department of Medical Ethics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2
    College of Nursing, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA
  1. Barbara K Redman, College of Nursing, Wayne State University, 5557 Cass Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48202, USA; B.Redman{at}
  • Received 12 September 2007
  • Revised 10 December 2007
  • Accepted 9 January 2008


This study provides current data on key questions about retraction of scientific articles. Findings confirm that the rate of retractions remains low but is increasing. The most commonly cited reason for retraction was research error or inability to reproduce results; the rate from research misconduct is an underestimate, since some retractions necessitated by research misconduct were reported as being due to inability to reproduce. Retraction by parties other than authors is increasing, especially for research misconduct. Although retractions are on average occurring sooner after publication than in the past, citation analysis shows that they are not being recognised by subsequent users of the work. Findings suggest that editors and institutional officials are taking more responsibility for correcting the scientific record but that reasons published in the retraction notice are not always reliable. More aggressive means of notification to the scientific community appear to be necessary.


  • Competing interests: None declared.