Crossref Acquires Retraction Watch Data and Opens It For The Scientific Community
From a Joint News Release:
The Center for Scientific Integrity, the organisation behind the Retraction Watch blog and database, and Crossref, the global infrastructure underpinning research communications, both not-for-profits, announced today that the Retraction Watch database has been acquired by Crossref and made an open public resource. An agreement between the two organisations will allow Retraction Watch to keep the data populated on an ongoing basis and always open, alongside publishers registering their retraction notices directly with Crossref.
Both organisations have a shared mission to make it easier to assess the trustworthiness of scholarly outputs. Retractions are an important part of science and scholarship regulating themselves and are a sign that academic publishing is doing its job. But there are more journals and papers than ever, so identifying and tracking retracted papers has become much harder for publishers and readers. That, in turn, makes it difficult for readers and authors to know whether they are reading or citing work that has been retracted. Combining efforts to create the largest single open-source database of retractions reduces duplication, making it more efficient, transparent, and accessible for all.
Product Director Rachael Lammey says, “Crossref is focused on documenting and clarifying the scholarly record in an open and scalable form. For a decade, our members have been recording corrections and retractions through our infrastructure, and incorporating the Crossmark button to alert readers. Collaborating with Retraction Watch augments publisher efforts by filling in critical gaps in our coverage, helps the downstream services that rely on high-quality, open data about retractions, and ultimately directly benefits the research community.”
The Center for Scientific Integrity and the Retraction Watch blog will remain separate from Crossref and will continue their journalistic work investigating retractions and related issues; the agreement with Crossref is confined to the database only and Crossref itself remains a neutral facilitator in efforts to assess the quality of scientific works. Both organisations consider publishers to be the primary stewards of the scholarly record and they are encouraged to continue to add retractions to their Crossref metadata as a priority.
“Retraction Watch has always worked to make our highly comprehensive and accurate retraction data available to as many people as possible. We are deeply grateful to the foundations, individuals, and members of the publishing services industry who have supported our efforts and laid the groundwork for this development,” said Ivan Oransky, executive director of the Center for Scientific Integrity and co-founder of Retraction Watch. “This agreement means that the Retraction Watch Database has sustainable funding to allow its work to continue and improve.”
Please join Crossref and Retraction Watch leadership, among other special guests, for a community call on September 27 at 1pm UTC (your time zone here) to discuss this new development in the pursuit of research integrity.
The full dataset has been released through Crossref’s Labs API, initially as a .csv file to download directly: https://api.labs.crossref.org/
The Crossref Labs API also displays information about retractions in the /works/ route when we have data for an item, such as https://api.labs.crossref.org/
Crossref retractions number 13.5k, and the RW databases currently numbers 42.8k. There is likely a big overlap.
Crossref is paying an initial acquisition fee of USD $175,000 and will pay Retraction Watch USD $120,000 each year, increasing by 5% each year. The initial term of the contract is five years.
MORE From a Retraction Watch Blog Post:
Today is a very big day for Retraction Watch and The Center For Scientific Integrity, our parent non-profit. Bear with me while I explain, starting with some history.
When Adam Marcus and I launched Retraction Watch in 2010, we envisioned it as a journalism blog that would break stories no one else was covering, and examine whether scientific correction mechanisms were robust. And for some time, that’s just what it was. Our traffic and visibility grew quite quickly, but the team didn’t. It was years before we even had an intern.
Things changed in 2014 and 2015. Three philanthropies – the MacArthur Foundation, the Arnold Foundation (now Arnold Ventures), and the Helmsley Trust – approached us with some version of “We think what you’re doing is important. How can we help?”
Around that time we realized the world lacked a comprehensive database of retractions. We saw how many were missing from sources researchers used, whether PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, or others – including Crossref, more about which I will say in a moment. We were cataloging them in spreadsheets ourselves, but couldn’t keep up.
The three foundations all agreed to support our work, not just the journalism, but to create what became The Retraction Watch Database, officially launched in 2018. Part of that funding was a grant to create a strategic plan for sustainability and growth. One of the pillars of that plan was licensing the Database to organizations – commercial and nonprofit – who could use it in products that would help researchers know when what they were reading had been retracted, among other purposes.
Those license fees – along with other income, particularly individual donations and a subcontract from a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) – have kept Retraction Watch and The Center for Scientific Integrity running for several years. We are deeply grateful for the support and show of confidence they represent.
But we also always wanted to make the Database available to as many people as possible, whether or not they had access to tools that licensed it, if we could find a financial model that did not rely on such fees. (We always provided the data free of charge to scholars studying retractions and related phenomena.)
Fast forward to today. We’re thrilled to announce that Crossref has acquired The Retraction Watch Database and will make it completely open and freely available.
For those of you unfamiliar, here’s how Crossref describes itself: “Crossref makes research objects easy to find, cite, link, assess, and reuse. We’re a not-for-profit membership organization that exists to make scholarly communications better.” They are indeed the ideal home for the Database, and the perfect collaborator: A nonprofit organization that shares our mission and has a highly successful track record of building tools and resources that make research more efficient.
But there’s more. As part of our agreement with them, and to recognize the clear value of what Retraction Watch has created, Crossref has paid us an acquisition fee that is roughly equivalent to half of our annual budget. They will also pay us an annual fee, initially for five years, to continue to maintain and update the database. That fee covers the salary of our research director, Alison Abritis, as well as a new deputy for Alison who starts next week.
That means we have achieved sustainability – the highest priority goal for any nonprofit – for the database side of our operation. And the acquisition fee provides important unrestricted reserves that allow for breathing room and the potential for growth.
Which brings me back to the journalism side of the house. Retraction Watch has, with the exception of about a year of its 13-year-existence, been a volunteer activity for me and Adam. It will remain that way. But our new and consistent funding stream means that I will be able to devote a lot of the time that I spent working on the Database – including negotiating data use agreements – on growing Retraction Watch itself.
Thanks to a generous grant from the WoodNext Foundation, we now have two reporter-editors on staff. We know there are far more stories than two people – plus me and Adam as part-time high-level editors and directors – can tell. For a brief period of time while all of our grants were in place, we had as many as five salaried journalists. I’d love to get back to that level of staffing, and will be working on fundraising and bringing in more revenue in the coming months and years. If that moves you to support us now, please do.
Thank you to Crossref, to those who have licensed our data, and to everyone who has supported us financially and otherwise over the past 13 years. We’re here for the long haul, and we’re grateful that you’ll be with us too.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.