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Although errors certainly account for the greatest proportion of retracted articles (56), Steen has argued that many retractions are a consequence of deliberate attempts by an author to deceive (84).
Most scientists feel that research misconduct is uncommon.
However, a meta-analysis of survey data reported that 2% of scientists report having committed serious research misconduct at least once, and one-third admit to having engaged in questionable research practices (26).
Given the stigma associated with retractions and the challenges in detecting misconduct, it is likely that retractions represent only the tip of the iceberg (65).
Retraction notices are posted in Pub Med and available free of charge, and the pdf versions of retracted articles now carry a watermark to inform readers that the article has been retracted.
Authors are consulted regarding the wording of a retraction, but final decisions are at the discretion of the journal.
This is a reasonably representative sample of the reasons for manuscript retraction discussed in guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (93, 94).
In the case involving repeated instances of digital-figure manipulation that resulted in six retracted performed an independent review of the evidence, requested a response from the author(s), and then reached a decision to retract the articles in question after consultation with multiple editors and members of the ASM Publications Board.
Either publishers or authors may initiate a retraction (50, 93).
Last year, the journalists Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus launched a blog called “Retraction Watch,” which is devoted to the examination of retracted articles “as a window into the scientific process” (60); sadly, they seem to have no trouble finding material.
A 2004 survey found that many scientific journals lack formal retraction policies (5).