Continued post-retraction citation of a fraudulent clinical trial report, 11 years after it was retracted for falsifying data

Jodi Schneider, Di Ye, Alison M. Hill, Ashley S. Whitehorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper presents a case study of long-term post-retraction citation to falsified clinical trial data (Matsuyama et al. in Chest 128(6):3817–3827, 2005. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.128.6.3817), demonstrating problems with how the current digital library environment communicates retraction status. Eleven years after its retraction, the paper continues to be cited positively and uncritically to support a medical nutrition intervention, without mention of its 2008 retraction for falsifying data. To date no high quality clinical trials reporting on the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids on reducing inflammatory markers have been published. Our paper uses network analysis, citation context analysis, and retraction status visibility analysis to illustrate the potential for extended propagation of misinformation over a citation network, updating and extending a case study of the first 6 years of post-retraction citation (Fulton et al. in Publications 3(1):7–26, 2015. https://doi.org/10.3390/publications3010017). The current study covers 148 direct citations from 2006 through 2019 and their 2542 second-generation citations and assesses retraction status visibility of the case study paper and its retraction notice on 12 digital platforms as of 2020. The retraction is not mentioned in 96% (107/112) of direct post-retraction citations for which we were able to conduct citation context analysis. Over 41% (44/107) of direct post-retraction citations that do not mention the retraction describe the case study paper in detail, giving a risk of diffusing misinformation from the case paper. We analyze 152 second-generation citations to the most recent 35 direct citations (2010–2019) that do not mention the retraction but do mention methods or results of the case paper, finding 23 possible diffusions of misinformation from these non-direct citations to the case paper. Link resolving errors from databases show a significant challenge in a reader reaching the retraction notice via a database search. Only 1/8 databases (and 1/9 database records) consistently resolved the retraction notice to its full-text correctly in our tests. Although limited to evaluation of a single case (N = 1), this work demonstrates how retracted research can continue to spread and how the current information environment contributes to this problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2877-2913
Number of pages37
JournalScientometrics
Volume125
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Case study
  • Citation context analysis
  • Diffusion studies
  • Link resolver errors
  • Misinformation
  • Post-retraction citation
  • Problematic citation
  • Problems with bibliographic libraries
  • Retraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences

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