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A retraction is a public statement made about an earlier statement that withdraws, cancels, refutes, diametrically reverses the original statement or ceases and desists from publishing the original statement. The retraction may be initiated by the editors of a journal, or by the author(s) of the papers (or their institution). Retractions may or may not be accompanied by the author's further explanation as to how the original statement came to be made and/or what subsequent events, discoveries, or experiences led to the subsequent retraction. They are also in some cases accompanied by apologies for previous error and/or expressions of gratitude to persons who disclosed the error to the author.
Retractions always negate the author's previous public support for the original statement. Like original statements, retractions are in some cases incorrect. Retractions share with original statements the attribute that they are in some cases made insincerely, in some cases for personal gain, and in others under duress.
The term retraction carries stronger connotation than the term correction. An alteration that changes the main point of the original statement is generally referred to as a retraction while an alteration that leaves the main point of a statement intact is usually referred to simply as a correction. Depending on the circumstances, either a retraction or correction is the appropriate remedy.
Retraction in science
In science, a retraction of a published scientific article indicates that the original article should not have been published and that its data and conclusions should not be used as part of the foundation for future research. The most common reasons for the retraction of articles are scientific misconduct including plagiarism, serious errors, and duplicate/concurrent publishing (self-plagiarism). The retraction may be initiated by the editors of the journal, or by the author(s) of the papers (or their institution). A lesser withdrawal of content than a full retraction may be labelled a correction.
There have been numerous examples of retracted scientific publications. Retraction Watch provides regular updates on new retractions, and discusses general issues in relation to retractions.
These are some examples of academic retractions.
Retraction for error
- 2011 Retraction: Natsheh, A.; Nazzal, J. (2007). "Application of bifurcation theory to current-mode controlled parallel-connected DC–DC boost converters with multi bifurcation parameters". Chaos, Solitons & Fractals 33 (4): 1135–1156. doi:10.1016/j.chaos.2006.09.076. "This article has been retracted following a review by the Editorial Board. It has come to light that, due to an administrative error, this article was published although there is a significant overlap with an article that had already appeared in Int. J. Model. Simul., 25 (2005) 24–33, doi:10.2316/Journal.205.2005.1.205-4161."
- 2006 Makarova, T. L. et al. Nature 413, 716-718 (2001). Set of inconsistences triggered fraud investigation against first author, but after long investigation all mistakes were admitted by appointed experts as undeliberate and result of negligence or inaccuracy. The paper was retracted by other 7 co-authors. See also Corrigendum published few months prior to retraction where first author admitted personal responsibility for some mistakes.
- 2005 V. Schramke et al. "Retraction: RNA-interference-directed chromatin modification coupled to RNA polymerase II transcription" in Nature (volume 437, page 1057). Irreproducible results.
- 2005 R. C. Allshire. "Retraction. Hairpin RNAs and retrotransposon LTRs effect RNAi and chromatin-based gene silencing" in Science (volume 310, page 49). Irreproducible results.
- 2003 A. Kugler et al. "Retraction: Regression of human metastatic renal cell carcinoma after vaccination with tumor cell-dendritic cell hybrids" in Nature Medicine (volume 9, page 1221) was a retraction of a year 2000 article by Kugler et al. (Nat. Med. volume 6, pages 332-6). The data concerned patients with metastatic kidney cancer who were treated experimentally by combining their tumour cells with immune system cells. The article was retracted because of negligence in record keeping and sloppiness in the preparation of the manuscript.
- 2003 G. Hawthorne et al. "Retraction of paper on maternal diabetes" in the British Medical Journal (volume 327, page 929) was a retraction of a year 2000 article by Hawthorne et al. "Outcome of pregnancy in diabetic women in northeast England and in Norway" (BMJ volume 321, pages 730-1). The authors made a mistaken assumption about the diabetes data from Norway. A correct analysis of the data showed no difference between outcomes in the two countries.
- 2003 Retracted Science article on ecstasy. See Retracted article on neurotoxicity of ecstasy.
- Frank Cameron Jackson, creator of the theory of epiphenomenalism, retracted his position due to an error in reasoning.
Retraction for fraud or misconduct
- 2011 Retraction: Enhanced Inhibition of Tumour Growth and Metastasis, and Induction of Antitumour Immunity by IL-2-IgG2b Fusion Protein. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, 73: 266. by Budagian V, Nanni P, Lollini PL, Musiani P, Di Carlo E, Bulanova E, Paus R, Bulfone-Paus S. 2002*"Retraction: Enhanced Inhibition of Tumour Growth and Metastasis, and Induction of Antitumour Immunity by IL-2-IgG2b Fusion Protein". Scandinavian Journal of Immunology 73 (3): 266. 2011. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3083.2011.02519.x. PMID 21391334. "The retraction has been agreed due to a finding of scientific misconduct within the laboratory where the experiments took place, and was brought to our attention by the scientific community."
- 2009 Numerous papers written by Scott Reuben from 1996 to 2009 were retracted after it was discovered he never actually conducted any of the trials he claimed to have run.
- 2009 Retracted: Promoter hypermethylation of cancer-related genes: a strong independent prognostic factor in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blood. 2004;104:2492-2498, Roman-Gomez J et al. 'The authors retract the October 15, 2004, paper cited above. Figure 1 in that paper was inappropriately reproduced from a previously published paper, namely Dong SM, Kim HS, Rha SH, Sidransky D. Promoter hypermethylation of multiple genes in carcinoma of the uterine cervix. Clin Cancer Res. 2001;7:1982-1986. The authors deeply apologize to the authors of that paper and to the scientific community.’ The authors used an image appropriated from an unrelated article as evidence of their own laboratory work. It is unclear if the patients and samples in question existed and no investigation has been undertaken despite clear evidence of fabrication in several other papers from this group.
- 2008 Hepatology. 2008 Aug;48(2):1-10.
- Retracted: outcome and immune reconstitution of HBV-specific immunity in patients with reactivation of occult HBV infection after alemtuzumab-containing chemotherapy regimen. Hui CK, Cheung WW, Leung KW, Cheng VC, Tang BS, Li IW, Luk JM, Lee NP, Kwong YL, Au WY, Yuen KY, Lau GK, Liang R.Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region, China.
- 2007 Retraction of several articles written by social psychologist Jennifer Lerner and colleagues from journals including Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and Biological Psychiatry.
- 2007 Retraction of "Cdx2 gene expression and trophectoderm lineage specification in mouse embryos" by K. Deb, M. Sivaguru, H.Y. Yong and R. Michael Roberts in Science due to first author's falsifying and fabricating digital images and thus engaging intentionally in research misconduct.
- 2006 Retraction of Patient-specific embryonic stem cells derived from human SCNT blastocysts. written by Hwang Woo-Suk. Fabrications in the field of stem cell research led to 'indictment on embezzlement and bioethics law violations linked to faked stem cell research'.
- 2005 Retraction of "Enhanced insulin sensitivity, energy expenditure and thermogenesis in adipose-specific Pten suppression in mice" written by I. Shimomura. The transgenic mouse in question never existed and all gel pictures were found to be forged by one of Shimomura's colleagues.
- 2005 Retraction of "Recent Developments to British Multicultural Theory, Policy and Practice: The Case of British Muslims" written by T. Abbas in Citizenship Studies. This was because 'some sections of the text were copied without proper attribution to the original authors'.
- 2004 G. Struhl retracted the 2002 article "Evidence that Armadillo Transduces Wingless by Mediating Nuclear Export or Cytosolic Activation of Pangolin" because of fabrication of data by first author S. Chan.
- 2003 Numerous articles with questionable data from physicist Jan Hendrik Schön from many journals including both Science and Nature are retracted.
- 2002 Retraction of announced discovery of elements 116 and 118. See Livermorium, Victor Ninov.
- 2000 Retraction of "Stable RNA/DNA hybrids in the mammalian genome: inducible intermediates in immunoglobulin class switch recombination" and "Transcription-dependent R-loop formation at mammalian class switch sequences" because of fabrication of data by first author R. B. Tracy.
- 1991 Thereza Imanishi-Kari, who worked with David Baltimore, published a 1986 article in the journal Cell. Margot O'Toole, a postdoctoral researcher for Imanishi-Kari publicized Imanishi-Kari's scientific misconduct. After a major investigation, Baltimore was finally forced to issue a retraction in 1991 when the National Institutes of Health concluded that data in the 1986 Imanishi-Kari article had been falsified. In 1996, an expert panel appointed by the federal government cleared Imanishi-Kari of misconduct, finding no evidence of scientific fraud.
- 1982-3 John Darsee. Fabricated results in the Cardiac Research Laboratory of Eugene Braunwald at Harvard in the early 1980s. Initially thought to be brilliant by his boss. He was caught out by fellow researchers in the same laboratory.
- 1981 Mark Spector, a graduate student in the laboratory of Efraim Racker fabricated and published data in support of a new molecular mechanism of cancer. After researchers in other laboratories were unable to replicate Spector's results, it was found that Spector had knowingly incorporated radioactive iodine into proteins rather than radioactive phosphate, allowing him to fabricate an imaginary regulatory cascade. In 1981 Efraim Racker retracted the paper "Warburg effect revisited: merger of biochemistry and molecular biology" from the scientific journal Science, volume 213, page 1313.
Retraction for possible fraud or misconduct (investigation ongoing)
- 2011-2 Anil Potti, formerly a cancer researcher at Duke University. Eight journal articles authored by Anil Potti and others that describe genomic signatures of cancer prognosis and predictors of response to cancer treatment were retracted in 2011 and 2012. The retraction notices generally state that the results of the analyses described in the articles could not be reproduced. A scientific misconduct investigation of Anil Potti is ongoing. The retracted manuscripts include:
- Potti, Anil; Dressman, Holly K; Bild, Andrea; Riedel, Richard F; Chan, Gina; Sayer, Robyn; Cragun, Janiel; Cottrill, Hope et al. (2006). "Genomic signatures to guide the use of chemotherapeutics". Nature Medicine 12 (11): 1294–300. doi:10.1038/nm1491. PMID 17057710.
- Bonnefoi, Hervé; Potti, Anil; Delorenzi, Mauro; Mauriac, Louis; Campone, Mario; Tubiana-Hulin, Michèle; Petit, Thierry; Rouanet, Philippe et al. (2007). "RETRACTED: Validation of gene signatures that predict the response of breast cancer to neoadjuvant chemotherapy: A substudy of the EORTC 10994/BIG 00-01 clinical trial". The Lancet Oncology 8 (12): 1071–8. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(07)70345-5. PMID 18024211.
- Potti, Anil; Mukherjee, Sayan; Petersen, Rebecca; Dressman, Holly K.; Bild, Andrea; Koontz, Jason; Kratzke, Robert; Watson, Mark A. et al. (2006). "A Genomic Strategy to Refine Prognosis in Early-Stage Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer". New England Journal of Medicine 355 (6): 570–80. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa060467. PMID 16899777.
- Potti, A.; Bild, A; Dressman, HK; Lewis, DA; Nevins, JR; Ortel, TL (2006). "Gene-expression patterns predict phenotypes of immune-mediated thrombosis". Blood 107 (4): 1391–6. doi:10.1182/blood-2005-07-2669. PMC 1895419. PMID 16263789.
- Garman, K. S.; Acharya, C. R.; Edelman, E.; Grade, M.; Gaedcke, J.; Sud, S.; Barry, W.; Diehl, A. M. et al. (2008). "A genomic approach to colon cancer risk stratification yields biologic insights into therapeutic opportunities". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (49): 19432–7. doi:10.1073/pnas.0806674105. PMC 2592987. PMID 19050079.
- Salter, Kelly H.; Acharya, Chaitanya R.; Walters, Kelli S.; Redman, Richard; Anguiano, Ariel; Garman, Katherine S.; Anders, Carey K.; Mukherjee, Sayan et al. (2008). "An Integrated Approach to the Prediction of Chemotherapeutic Response in Patients with Breast Cancer". In Ouchi, Toru. PLoS ONE 3 (4): e1908. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001908. PMC 2270912. PMID 18382681.
- Hsu, D. S.; Balakumaran, B. S.; Acharya, C. R.; Vlahovic, V.; Walters, K. S.; Garman, K.; Anders, C.; Riedel, R. F. et al. (2007). "Pharmacogenomic Strategies Provide a Rational Approach to the Treatment of Cisplatin-Resistant Patients with Advanced Cancer". Journal of Clinical Oncology 25 (28): 4350–7. doi:10.1200/JCO.2007.11.0593. PMID 17906199.
- Acharya, C. R.; Hsu, D. S.; Anders, C. K.; Anguiano, A.; Salter, K. H.; Redman, R. C.; Tuchman, S. A.; Moylan, C. A. et al. (2008). "Gene expression signatures, clinicopathological features, and individualized therapy in breast cancer". Journal of American Medical Association 299 (13): 1574–87. doi:10.1001/jama.299.13.1574. PMID 18387932.
Retraction for political reasons
- 1633 Galileo Galilei was coerced into retracting his finding that the Earth was not the center of the universe.
- 1896 Jose Rizal was said to have issued a letter of retraction regarding his novels and other published articles against the Roman Catholic Church.
- Sabine Kleinert (2009 Dec 5). "COPE's retraction guidelines". Lancet 374 (9705): 1876–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)62074-2. PMID 19962558.
- "Magnetic dreams disputed". Chemistry World. 25 September 2007.
- Makarova TL et al. (2001). Nature 413 (6857): 716. doi:10.1038/35099527.; retraction Makarova, T. L.; Sundqvist, B.; Höhne, R.; Esquinazi, P.; Kopelevich, Y.; Scharff, P.; Davydov, V.; Kashevarova, L. S. et al. (2006). "Retraction: Magnetic carbon". Nature 440 (7084): 707. doi:10.1038/nature04622.
- Torin Alter. "Jacksoon's Retraction". APA. Archived from the original on 2008-05-16.
- "Misconduct in science : An array of errors". The Economist. 10 September 2011.