Request for Information (RFI): Journal Editors Experiences with Issues Related to Retracting or Correcting Scientific Papers

Notice Number: NOT-ES-14-005

Key Dates
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Response Date:  May, 3, 2014

Related Announcements
None

Issued by
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

Purpose

The goal of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit information from scientific journal editors’ experiences with issues related to retractions and corrections.

Publishing a retraction or correction when problems are discovered with a scientific paper is important to ensure the validity, accuracy, and integrity of the research record.  Retractions and corrections can be linked to the citation of the paper in the electronic databases (such as PubMed) to alert scientists to problems with the paper.  Retractions are appropriate when there is a major flaw with the paper that undermines the validity or the data or results.  Corrections are appropriate when the paper contain minor mistake(s) that do not impact the validity of the data or results.  The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has developed guidelines for retractions and corrections (http://publicationethics.org/files/u661/Retractions_COPE_gline_final_3_Sept_09__2_.pdf ).

Although it is widely recognized, publishing retractions or corrections plays an important role in ensuring the validity, accuracy, and integrity of the research record, disputes may arise concerning publishing a retraction or correction.  For example, one of the authors of a multi-authored paper may not want to publish a retraction to avoid embarrassment, even though the other authors believe that a retraction is warranted.  Sometimes the editors may want to retract a paper associated with an official finding of research misconduct or other major problem, but some of the authors may not want to retract a paper.  Some editors may decide to retract a paper even when not all of the authors agree to a retraction, but others may decide not to do this in order to avoid a lawsuit.  Sometimes editors publish an expression of concern about a paper when it is not retracted but there are significant problems with it. 

Background

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is one of 27 research institutes and centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The mission of the NIEHS is to discover how the environment affects people in order to promote healthier lives.

Established in 1997, the Bioethics Program is a part of the NIEHS' Ethics Program that provides educational, scholarly, and administrative support for research integrity at the NIEHS. The Bioethics Program sponsors annual training in responsible conduct of research and sponsors workshops, seminars, and focus groups on ethical issues in environmental health research.

The NIEHS' bioethicist works closely with the NIEHS Ethics Office, the NIEHS Institutional Review Board, the NIEHS Office of Human Research Compliance, and the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director to develop institutional policies that promote research integrity and compliance with federal research policies and regulations. The NIEHS bioethicist conducts interdisciplinary research on ethical, legal, and social issues in environmental health research and provides consultations for researchers and administrators on bioethics issues, problems, and concerns.

Information Requested

Your comments can include but are not limited to the following areas of concern:

1. Information about the journal’s written policies (if any) concerning retracting or correcting published papers.
2. Information concerning disputes involving authors or editors concerning retractions or corrections in papers published in the journal in the past five years.  Comments can also briefly describe the issues at stake.
3. Any other comments concerning issues related to retracting or correcting papers.

Submitting a Response

Responses are invited from editors of scientific journals.

The deadline for receipt of information and comments is May 3, 2014, and should be submitted by email to: resnikd@niehs.nih.gov.

The comments collected will be analyzed for the purpose of publishing an article on issues related to retractions and corrections.  All responses will be kept confidential and only general information will be published.  Despite this, proprietary, classified or confidential information should not be included in your response.

This RFI is for research purposes only and is not a solicitation for applications or an obligation on the part of the U.S. Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the U.S. Government will not pay for the preparation of any comment submitted or for its use of that comment.

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

David B. Resnik, JD, PhD
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Telephone: 919-541-5658
Email: resnikd@niehs.nih.gov

 

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