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Candal-Pedreira and colleagues showed that for 304 retracted papers, overall citations increased not decreased following retraction, but citations did seem to decrease for retracted papers in higher impact journals and those with higher citation rates, although that decrease might have been temporary.1 It is disturbing that retracted papers continue to be cited.
We approached the issue of changes in citations rates after retraction in a different way. We assessed citation rates of retracted and unretracted publications from individuals with more than one retracted publication in the Retraction Watch database.2 Using this approach, we found that, overall, citations for 989 retracted publications declined after the retraction and citations for 9671 unretracted papers also declined after the author’s first retraction, but the decline was greater for retracted papers. For example, for retracted publications, 671 papers had 3566 citations in the 3rd year before their retraction and 831 papers had 1575 citations in the 3rd year after their retraction. In contrast, 5311 unretracted papers had 17935 citations in the 3rd year before the author’s first retraction, and 7388 papers had 17252 citations in the 3rd year after the author’s first retraction.
Part of the difficulty in conducting and interpreting such analyses is the different lengths of time pre-and post-retraction for different papers. To try to address that issue, we calculated the slope of the citations/yea...
Part of the difficulty in conducting and interpreting such analyses is the different lengths of time pre-and post-retraction for different papers. To try to address that issue, we calculated the slope of the citations/year for individual papers for up to 5 years immediately prior to the year of the retraction (or the year of the author’s first retraction for unretracted papers) and for up to 5 years following first retraction. The median change in this slope was greater for retracted publications (−0.3, 95% CI −11.8 to 1.6) than for unretracted papers (0.0, 95% CI −6.3 to 1.7: P < 0.001).2
We agree with the Candal-Pedreira and colleagues that improvements are needed: there is no longer any excuse for citation of retracted publications. Publishers need to ensure that all retractions are clearly categorised on all commonly used bibliographic databases, and authors and journals need to ensure that papers cited have not been retracted, for example by using reference management tools such as Zotero that automatically update references when a retraction occurs.
1. Candal-Pedreira C, Ruano-Ravina A, Fernandez E, et al. Does retraction after misconduct have an impact on citations? A pre-post study. BMJ Glob Health 2020;5(11).
2. Mistry V, Grey A, Bolland MJ. Publication rates after the first retraction for biomedical researchers with multiple retracted publications. Account Res 2019;26(5):277-87.