Retractions

by on November 2, 2012 at 5:35 am in Science | Permalink

That is a new paper by Pierre Azoulay, Jeffrey Furman, Joshua Krieger, and Fiona Murray, and here is the abstract:

To what extent does “false science” impact the rate and direction of scientific change? We examine the impact of more than 1,100 scientific retractions on the citation trajectories of articles that are close neighbors of retracted articles in intellectual space but were published prior to the retraction event. Our results indicate that following retraction and relative to carefully selected controls, related articles experience a lasting five to ten percent decline in the rate at which they are cited. We probe the mechanisms that might underlie these negative spillovers over intellectual space. One view holds that adjacent fields atrophy post-retraction because the shoulders they offer to follow-on researchers have been proven to be shaky or absent. An alternative view holds that scientists avoid the “infected” fields lest their own status suffers through mere association. Two pieces of evidence are consistent with the latter view. First, for-profit citers are much less responsive to the retraction event than are academic citers. Second, the penalty suffered by related articles is much more severe when the associated retracted article includes fraud or misconduct, relative to cases where the retraction occurred because of honest mistakes.

This of course may suggest one reason why some scientists are not so keen to force retractions from other researchers in their field.

Alan November 2, 2012 at 6:09 am

I’d like to see a similar investigation of macroeconomics.

dearieme November 2, 2012 at 6:34 am

Your “controls” would need to be remarkably “carefully selected” to let you measure an effect so well that a mere “five to ten percent decline” can be discerned with confidence.

ezra abrams November 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

I don’t know about your field, but in mine – molecular biology, the study of the molecules of life, most published, peer reviewed papers are totally ignored.
Only a tiny minority of papers have any real impact.
Aside from citation analysis, which as a ~ 2year lag, I don’t know of a way to separate the wheat from the chaff in real time except for polling people.

The point is, who cares about most papers; noone was gonna read em anyway.

Urstoff November 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

The link is incorrect; it goes to an NBER paper by Martin Weitzman.

TGGP November 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I verified the link is still incorrect as of this time.

TGGP November 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm
revver November 3, 2012 at 9:03 am

Most papers are a drop in the bucket anyways, so it makes no difference. So much for the cult of science being a bastion of objectivity, its as prone to groupthink and politics as anything else.

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