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A Comprehensive Survey of Retracted Articles from the Scholarly Literature

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      The number of retracted scholarly articles has risen precipitously in recent years. Past surveys of the retracted literature each limited their scope to articles in PubMed, though many retracted articles are not indexed in PubMed. To understand the scope and characteristics of retracted articles across the full spectrum of scholarly disciplines, we surveyed 42 of the largest bibliographic databases for major scholarly fields and publisher websites to identify retracted articles. This study examines various trends among them.


      We found, 4,449 scholarly publications retracted from 1928–2011. Unlike Math, Physics, Engineering and Social Sciences, the percentages of retractions in Medicine, Life Science and Chemistry exceeded their percentages among Web of Science (WoS) records. Retractions due to alleged publishing misconduct (47%) outnumbered those due to alleged research misconduct (20%) or questionable data/interpretations (42%). This total exceeds 100% since multiple justifications were listed in some retraction notices. Retraction/WoS record ratios vary among author affiliation countries. Though widespread, only miniscule percentages of publications for individual years, countries, journals, or disciplines have been retracted. Fifteen prolific individuals accounted for more than half of all retractions due to alleged research misconduct, and strongly influenced all retraction characteristics. The number of articles retracted per year increased by a factor of 19.06 from 2001 to 2010, though excluding repeat offenders and adjusting for growth of the published literature decreases it to a factor of 11.36.


      Retracted articles occur across the full spectrum of scholarly disciplines. Most retracted articles do not contain flawed data; and the authors of most retracted articles have not been accused of research misconduct. Despite recent increases, the proportion of published scholarly literature affected by retraction remains very small. Articles and editorials discussing retractions, or their relation to research integrity, should always consider individual cases in these broad contexts. However, better mechanisms are still needed for raising researchers’ awareness of the retracted literature in their field.

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      How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data

      The frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct is a matter of controversy. Many surveys have asked scientists directly whether they have committed or know of a colleague who committed research misconduct, but their results appeared difficult to compare and synthesize. This is the first meta-analysis of these surveys. To standardize outcomes, the number of respondents who recalled at least one incident of misconduct was calculated for each question, and the analysis was limited to behaviours that distort scientific knowledge: fabrication, falsification, “cooking” of data, etc… Survey questions on plagiarism and other forms of professional misconduct were excluded. The final sample consisted of 21 surveys that were included in the systematic review, and 18 in the meta-analysis. A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Meta-regression showed that self reports surveys, surveys using the words “falsification” or “fabrication”, and mailed surveys yielded lower percentages of misconduct. When these factors were controlled for, misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others. Considering that these surveys ask sensitive questions and have other limitations, it appears likely that this is a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of scientific misconduct.
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        Purification and ex vivo expansion of postnatal human marrow mesodermal progenitor cells.

        It is here reported that mesenchymal stem cells known to give rise to limb-bud mesoderm can, at the single-cell level, also differentiate into cells of visceral mesoderm and can be expanded extensively by means of clinically applicable methods. These cells were named mesodermal progenitor cells (MPCs). MPCs were selected by depleting bone marrow mononuclear cells from more than 30 healthy human donors of CD45(+)/glycophorin-A (GlyA)(+) cells. Cells were cultured on fibronectin with epidermal growth factor and platelet-derived growth factor BB and 2% or less fetal calf serum. It was found that 1/5 x 10(3) CD45(-)GlyA(-) cells, or 1/10(6) bone marrow mononuclear cells, gave rise to clusters of small adherent cells. Cell-doubling time was 48 to 72 hours, and cells have been expanded in culture for more than 60 cell doublings. MPCs are CD34(-), CD44(low), CD45(-), CD117 (cKit)(-), class I-HLA(-), and HLA-DR(-). MPCs differentiated into cells of limb-bud mesoderm (osteoblasts, chondrocytes, adipocytes, stroma cells, and skeletal myoblasts) as well as visceral mesoderm (endothelial cells). Retroviral marking was used to definitively prove that single MPCs can differentiate into cells of limb bud and visceral mesoderm. Thus, MPCs that proliferate without obvious senescence under clinically applicable conditions and differentiate at the single-cell level not only into mesenchymal cells but also cells of visceral mesoderm may be an ideal source of stem cells for treatment of genetic or degenerative disorders affecting cells of mesodermal origin.
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          Retracted science and the retraction index.

          Articles may be retracted when their findings are no longer considered trustworthy due to scientific misconduct or error, they plagiarize previously published work, or they are found to violate ethical guidelines. Using a novel measure that we call the "retraction index," we found that the frequency of retraction varies among journals and shows a strong correlation with the journal impact factor. Although retractions are relatively rare, the retraction process is essential for correcting the literature and maintaining trust in the scientific process.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Wenzhou Medical College, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China
            [2 ]Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America
            IUMSP, University Hospital Lausanne, Switzerland
            Author notes

            Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: MLG MZ. Performed the experiments: MLG. Analyzed the data: MLG MZ. Wrote the paper: MLG MZ.

            Role: Editor
            PLoS One
            PLoS ONE
            PLoS ONE
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            24 October 2012
            : 7
            : 10
            23115617 3480361 PONE-D-11-25855 10.1371/journal.pone.0044118

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Pages: 15
            The authors wish to acknowledge Wenzhou Medical College and Wenzhou City (No. 89207011, 20082780125) and Science and Technology Department of Zhejiang Province (No. 2008C03009) China for partial financial support for this project. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
            Research Article
            Science Policy
            Research Assessment
            Research Validity
            Research Errors
            Peer Review
            Publication Practices
            Research Monitoring
            Research Reporting Guidelines
            Research Funding
            Government Funding of Science
            Research Integrity
            Publication Ethics
            Scientific Misconduct
            Science Education



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