Journals On Topic

Research, Retraction, and Reputation

For centuries, academics have worked tirelessly and conscientiously to conduct studies, draw conclusions, and publish results. But even with the best intentions, mistakes happen: Faulty research is conducted, and unreliable conclusions are drawn. Sometimes it’s unintentional, and other times it’s not as black and white.

The academic world has created a system of corrections and retractions to protect against the spread of misinformation.

A correction occurs when an article needs a minor tweak after publication — for example, if a source is cited incorrectly or a piece of input data was wrong.

But a retraction is a much more stringent and serious process. It requires carefully investigating the research and findings to determine if they are faulty or not. This can often take months. And for a retraction to be made, consensus across the academic world is needed.

As careful as scientists, peer reviewers, and editors are to check the work, mistakes still get published, unfortunately. The opportunity for retraction is crucial in academic publishing, but a recent study by Northwestern University and University of Michigan researchers found that the retraction process itself isn’t as effective as it should be.

Why is this?

We all love a juicy story, and studies with novel or shocking results often capture our attention. But the buzz around the original findings can die down quickly, so if a retraction is necessary, people are typically not as engaged as they were initially and are unaware a retraction has even occurred.

Of course, it’s these “flashy” findings that tend to be retracted the most. Most readers do not even consider following up months, or even years, later to validate the original study. A good example is how so many people still believe that autism is linked to childhood vaccines, even though that theory has been thoroughly rebuffed and retracted.

Nonetheless, it is still essential for the academic world to have a system of retractions. And it is vital that this process be thorough and unconcerned with the endless churning of the 24/7 news cycle. The approach must be thoughtful and thorough, and this takes time. Therefore, it’s unlikely there will ever be a time when public awareness and thoroughly conducted retractions are in complete symbiosis.

As it always has, the validity of research falls on the journals and researchers themselves. One’s reputation in the academic world is on the line each time he or she conducts research and draws conclusions. It is the responsibility of academics to do the hard work of accurate analysis and ensure their peer-review process is structured to catch mistakes. Thankfully, most academics are thoroughly committed to finding the truth above all else.

Contact your Sheridan or KGL representative for a consultation or visit our contact pages (Sheridan contact page / KGL contact page) to learn how we can help streamline and simplify your publishing processes.

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