|The rise of retractions in science – more misconduct or stiffer scrutiny%3F|
|Year||Retracted articles||Total articles|
|2009 through July||106||892,2|
The editor of Stem Cells and Development recently announced the retraction of a paper concerning the production of human sperm from embryonic stem cells after he learnt that the introduction had been largely plagiarised. This event prompted the question of the extent of retractions in scientific literature and whether their rate has changed over the past 20 years. The search was limited to science journals only. As can be seen, the size of the database roughly doubled over the past two decades, whereas the number of retractions increased by roughly tenfold. The notorious case of German physicist J.?H. Schon does not alone account for the increase: 22 of his papers, many published in top journals such as Science, were retracted from 2002 to 2004. The increase is evident for a variety of reasons: misconduct, mistakes of reasoning or interpretation, and the irreproducibility of results. Striking discoveries may be under closer scrutiny, which is a positive sign of science’s self-correcting machinery. More negative interpretations include the suspicion that peer review is not as rigorous as it was and that the pressure to publish is leading to more errors and even fraud.
Next week: Asia Pacific institutes in materials sciences