From the University of Illinois News Service:
Jodi Schneider, a professor of information sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who studies scholarly publications and how information gets used, is considering how scientific journals can better communicate about retracted articles. In a new study published in the journal Scientometrics, she found that a retracted clinical trial report continues to be cited 11 years after its retraction – and that citations actually increased after it was retracted.
Schneider’s team reviewed citations of a 2005 paper in the field of respiratory medicine that found omega-3 fatty acids to be helpful in reducing inflammatory markers in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The paper was retracted in 2008 for reporting on falsified clinical trial data.
However, it continues to be cited to support the medical nutrition intervention. Schneider’s analysis covered 148 direct citations of the paper from 2006-2019 and 2,542 second-generation citations. The retraction was not mentioned in 96% of the 112 direct post-retraction citations for which she was able to study the context of the citation. The example demonstrates problems with how the current digital library environment communicates the retraction status of scientific papers, Schneider wrote.
Information sciences students at Illinois built a prototype tool called ReTracker that would automatically check for retractions among the articles that scholars compile in their online libraries, using data from PubMed, and add the retraction status directly into the library. Zotero, a popular reference-management software system used for managing bibliographic data and research materials, also has developed such a tool, Schneider said.