Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Retraction Watch

There is a very interesting academic not-for-profit site known as RetractionWatch. The site contributors go out of their way to list authors, and scientific papers, which have been discredited in a database. They also collect articles about academic fraud cases which are in progress. This is a huge labour of love.

As a public service tool, this is a great site. It means that we can double check papers to ensure validity, or we can get a heads up when people go onto the ranked lists (RetractionWatch, 2021c). They also have a leaderboard of the 32 most discredited researchers who are - surprisingly - all male (RetractionWatch, 2021c). They cite in their method that - apparently - men are more likely than women to "have papers retracted for fraud" (RetractionWatch, 2021c, citing Harvey, 2020). Interesting... I wondered why that might be, so have downloaded Harvey's paper to read.

There are short articles on the site which are also very interesting. I was highly amused by the image accompanying the blog post on the landing page, which listed the best excuses I have ever seen for fraud, entitled "Excerpts from the Plagiarism Hall of Excuses" (RetractionWatch, 2013):

  • "It's only background/introductory material (or it has no technical merit)"
  • "It's only a proposal. It's not like it's a publication"
  • "The reviewers smart enough to know what is my work and what is someone else's"
  • "My native language does not have a word for plagiarism"
  • "I didn't do it. My grad student/undergraduate/postdoc/grant writer/facility colleague/secretary/Co-PI/SRO/AOR/VP of research/D/spouse wrote that section"
  • "It's in the public domain"
  • "The pressure of the deadline and the room overheating resulted in my carelessness with my citations"
  • "It's not plagiarism; it's just bad citation"
  • "Acid reflux"
  • "Bird vocalizations" (this last one has had my imagination firing no end)

I was also quite taken by pieces on various authors and their falls from grace, as well as the list of discredited Covid-19 papers, which can be viewed here (RetractionWatch, 2021a), and the top dodgy ten scientific papers of all time (here; RetractionWatch, 2021e).

These guys do an awesome job, for free, in the name of science. Stellar.


Sam

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