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Researchers Document Challenges in Identifying Retracted Status of Article

Milwaukee, June 28, 2021 - Southeastern Wisconsin Health Science Librarians collaborated on “Challenges in Identifying the Retracted Status of an Article” published as a research letter in the online journal JAMA Network Open on June 29, 2021.

The five librarians from the Medical College of Wisconsin (Elizabeth M. Suelzer, MLIS, AHIP; Elizabeth Witkowski, MILS), Advocate Aurora Health (Jennifer Deal, MA, MLIS; Karen L Hanus, MLIS, AHIP) and Carroll University (Barbara E. Ruggeri, MLIS, AHIP) studied the practices of journal publishers and bibliographic databases to determine their concordance with industry standards in identifying retracted publications. Unacknowledged citations to retracted literature is a persistent problem in scholarly publishing. Researchers are inundated with information and may not recognize the article they have discovered has been retracted, leading to inadvertent citation of information that is no longer valid. Students and new researchers are encouraged to search authoritative bibliographic databases for scholarly information and the authors sought to determine if these databases reliably identify retracted literature.

The librarians examined 150 retracted articles in six biomedical citation databases (PubMed, Ovid MEDLINE, EBSCO CINAHL, ProQuest PsycINFO, Scopus and Web of Science) to document how the retracted articles and notices of retractions were displayed in compliance with guidelines from the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) on retraction. Their analysis found that performance varied among the six bibliographic databases, with two achieving a high of 87% to one a low of 7% compliance.

“Our investigation found bibliographic databases are lacking in consistency in identifying retracted articles, which results in some users being better informed than others, depending on which database they can access,” commented lead author Elizabeth Suelzer, MLIS, AHIP, from the Medical College of Wisconsin Libraries. “One of the best performing databases, PubMed, is freely available to everyone, but many subscription databases do not perform as well. As librarians, we must justify the cost of database subscriptions and call on bibliographic database producers to improve their products. With consistent identification of retracted information, we hope to stop the inadvertent spread of invalid research.”

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