Authors : Rafael Dal-Ré, Carmen Ayuso
We aimed to quantify the number of pre- and post-retraction citations obtained by genetics articles retracted due to research misconduct. All retraction notices available in the Retraction Watch database for genetics articles published in 1970–2016 were assessed.
The reasons for retraction were fabrication/falsification and plagiarism. The endpoints were the number of citations of retracted articles and when and how journals reported on retractions and whether this was published on PubMed.
Four hundred and sixty retracted genetics articles were cited 34,487 times; 7,945 (23%) were post-retraction citations. Median time to retraction and time to last citation were 3.2 and 3 years, respectively. Most (96%) had a PubMed retraction notice, One percent of these were totally removed from journal websites altogether, and 4% had no information available on either the online or PDF versions.
Ninety percent of citations were from articles retracted due to falsification/fabrication. The percentage of post-retraction citations was significantly higher in the case of plagiarism (42%) than in the case of fabrication/falsification (21.5%) (p<0.001). Median time to retraction was shorter (1.3 years) in the case of plagiarism than for fabrication/falsification (4.8 years, p<0.001).
The retraction was more frequently reported in the PDFs (70%) for the fabrication/falsification cases than for the plagiarism cases (43%, p<0.001). The highest rate of retracted papers due to falsification/fabrication was among authors in the USA, and the highest rate for plagiarism was in China.
Although most retractions were appropriately handled by journals, the gravest issue was that median time to retraction for articles retracted for falsification/fabrication was nearly 5 years, earning close to 6800 post-retraction citations. Journals should implement processes to speed-up the retraction process that will help to minimize post-retraction citations.