Understanding Research Paper Retraction

retraction
“The main purpose of retractions is to correct the literature and ensure its integrity rather than to punish authors who misbehave.”- COPE (Committee of Publication Ethics)

An author is expected to submit a paper after checking and rechecking the paper to ensure that it adheres to the journal guidelines and also complies with the general ethics. The paper is again peer reviewed by the journal for accuracy. However, in spite of so many checks, some papers get published with gross discrepancies and are subsequently retracted. Most often, the authors are asked to retract the paper.
A paper is bound to get retracted by editors for reasons such as:

1. Presentation of unreliable data due to misconduct or an honest error
2. Unethical research
3. Plagiarism
4. Re-presentation of data published earlier, for which the author has failed to provide proper referencing or obtain necessary permissions.

Action after detection

In many cases, the journal thoroughly investigates the kind of flaws present in the paper after issuing a warning, which is generally termed as ‘expression of concern.’ If very serious kinds of flaws, such as in correct representation of data or unethical research or plagiarism to an extent where it cannot be ignored is found then in such cases retraction of paper becomes essential. Before the editors of the journal take any action the authors are given an opportunity to retract the paper themselves without citing any reasons. Editors retract a paper as a last resort.

Information of retraction

After the decision to retract the paper has been made, the online version is marked and (or) the pdf version is watermarked ‘retracted.’ A statement is issued clearly stating all the related information about the paper and a valid reason for the retraction. The statement also states who retracted the article. Care is taken to avoid a defamatory statement and. any harmful repercussions that could mislead publications.

Effect of retraction

Retraction of a paper is a source of shame and disgrace for all stakeholders, including the author(s) and the journal. The journal has to bear the shame of not being able to filter the paper before publication and the author gets a black mark on his academic profile forever.

Purpose of retraction

Retraction is a mechanism for alerting the readers and the research fraternity about the publication of the erroneous data and findings published in the paper. It is also a warning against the use of flawed data by others.

Best time to retract

It is best to act as soon as the editor detects the flaws to avoid further damage. This will prevent readers and other researchers from being misled.

The adage “prevention is better than cure” holds true for retractions too. Therefore, the authors should take great care to check the paper carefully before submission to avoid discrepancies and the ignominy of having their paper retracted after publication.


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