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News Feature: Retraction Watch Database



Ivan Oransky and Adam Markus founded the Retraction Watch blog in 2010. The Blog keeps a record of retractions in academic journals and follows their progress, including whether journals actively remove retracted articles or flag them appropriately. The Retraction Watch Database is a later project that began with MacArthur foundation funding in 2015 as a way to organise information from the Blog.¹ Over time the Retraction Watch database has become a source for those interested in issues about information integrity.


Seadle writes: “No reader should suppose that the Retraction Watch Database is a complete measure. It records only publically available journal (and some monographic) retractions, and the results vary periodically, presumably because of new information and occasionally because of reclassification of the disciplines or reasons for the retractions.”²


The database has a relatively sophisticated search structure and its own thesaurus. It uses Boolean logic so that scholars can do complex searches involving, for example, the reason for a retraction in a particular subject involving a specific journal or publisher, a particular country, a data-range, and a specific retraction type. One of the current concerns in the academic community is the frequency with which new articles cite retracted papers, whose results are arguably no longer reliable. Searching the database can help scholars avoid the embarrassment of citing a retraced work, and can assist journal editors with the review process. The database emphasizes medical and biological topics, partly because journals in those areas have been particularly active in trying to discover problems. Those who work on medical informatics may well already be active users of the database.


Unfortunately their funding is at risk. Oransky writes: “curating and maintaining the more comprehensive database of retractions available -- more than 35,000 and counting, with more than 3,500 entered every year -- requires continuous resources, and we have not had a grant for this work in five years.”³ Without community support, such projects are hard to sustain.

 

1: Markus, Adam, and Ivan Oransky. n.d. ‘From ScienceWriters: Retraction Watch Receives $400,000 Grant’. Accessed 15 July 2022. https://www.nasw.org/article/sciencewriters-retraction-watch-receives-400000-grant.


2: Seadle, Michael. 2022. The Measurement of Information Integrity. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/The-Measurement-of-Information-Integrity/Seadle/p/book/9780367565695.


3: Oransky, Ivan. n.d. ‘The Retraction Watch Database Needs Your Help’. Accessed 15 July 2022. https://mailchi.mp/retractionwatch/scholarship-appeal-july-2022.


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