Retraction Watch: another new niche blog that will be fun to follow

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Ivan Oransky, MD, executive editor of Reuters Health, somehow found time a few months ago to launch his first blog, Embargo Watch – with tagline: “Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage.”

Now, as evidence he either doesn’t sleep or has roots in Transylvania, Oransky the Impaler launches a new blog, Retraction Watch along with partner Adam Marcus. From their first post:

“So why write a blog on retractions?

First, science takes justifiable pride in the fact that it is self-correcting — most of the time. Usually, that just means more or better data, not fraud or mistakes that would require a retraction. But when a retraction is necessary, how long does that self-correction take? The Wakefield retraction, for example, was issued 12 years after the original study, and six years after serious questions had been raised publicly by journalist Andrew Deer. Retractions are therefore a window into the scientific process.

Second, retractions are not often well-publicized. Sure, there are the high-profile cases… But most retractions live in obscurity in Medline and other databases. That means those who funded the retracted research — often taxpayers — aren’t particularly likely to find out about them. Nor are investors always likely to hear about retractions on basic science papers whose findings may have formed the basis for companies into which they pour dollars. So we hope this blog will form an informal repository for the retractions we find

Third, they’re often the clues to great stories about fraud or other malfeasance…The reverse can also be true. The Cancer Letter’s expose of Potti and his fake Rhodes Scholarship is what led his co-authors to remind The Lancet Oncology of their concerns, and then the editors to issue their expression of concern. And they can even lead to lawsuits for damaged reputations. If highlighting retractions will give journalists more tools to uncover fraud and misuse of funds, we’re happy to help. And if those stories are appropriate for our respective news outlets, you’ll only read about them on Retraction Watch once we’ve covered them there.

Finally, we’re interested in whether journals are consistent. How long do they wait before printing a retraction? What requires one? How much of a public announcement, if any, do they make? Does a journal with a low rate of retractions have a better peer review and editing process, or is it just sweeping more mistakes under the rug?”

This is going to be fun. Or, if not, I’ll issue a retraction and maybe get written up.

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