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CIRSS Seminar - Proliferation of Retracted Research - Time and Time Again

Friday, March 27, 2020
4pm - 5pm


Event Details

Session leaders: Jodi Schneider, iSchool Assistant Professor
Description: Join online in Zoom:

Retraction is intended to stop citation to papers whose conclusions are unreliable. However, retraction is often poorly documented on publisher websites and scholarly databases, and few tools help authors and editors check bibliographies for retracted papers. We illustrate how the current information environment contributes to the spread of misinformation from retracted papers  through a case study of a paper retracted in 2008, due to falsified clinical trial data (Matsuyama et al., 2005). Its “persistent citation” was noted by domain researchers in 2015 (Fulton, Coates, et al., 2015). We now find that, from 2008-2019, the paper has continued to be cited positively and uncritically to support a medical nutrition intervention, without mention of its 2008 retraction for falsifying data. Shockingly, citation to the retracted paper has continued even though to date no high quality clinical trials with a similar aim (determine the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids on reducing inflammatory markers) have been published.

Our case study uses network analysis, citation context analysis, and retraction status visibility analysis. We find that 96% of the citations since retraction were positive and did not mention the retraction (107/112 of post-retraction citations). We look for possible diffusions of misinformation in citations to these papers (second-generation citations). We find 25 possible diffusions of misinformation in second-generation citations, from looking at 153 citations to the most recent 35 direct citations (2010-2019) that specifically describe the retracted paper’s methods or results without noting its retraction. We assess retraction status visibility of the case study paper and its retraction notice on 12 digital platforms as of early 2020. Resolving errors from databases show a significant challenge for a reader to reach the retraction notice via a database search. Only 1/8 databases (and 1/9 database records) consistently resolved the retraction notice to its full-text correctly in our tests.

Following the case study, we will also briefly discuss ongoing work to take a knowledge maintenance perspective in digital libraries, and to develop a research agenda through a Sloan-funded project stakeholder consultation.

Jodi Schneider is assistant professor of information science. Her work relates to the sociology of knowledge and uses approaches from science of science, argumentation, and knowledge representation, and computer supported collaboration to contribute to biomedical informatics, information quality, and evidence synthesis.

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