Publish or perish: That's the mantra among academics. The pressure on researchers to publish new studies, however, may have turned this saying into "publish and perish," as more than 650 scientific papers were retracted in 2016, jeopardizing the integrity of scientists, and threatening the public's trust in their work.
Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications, according to a study published in 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled, well, "Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications." The authors sure didn't mince words. They found that only about 20 percent of retractions were due to honest error, whereas nearly 70 percent were due to scientific misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud, a tenfold increase since 1975.
And those fraud-related retractions were more likely to be in the most prominent journals, the study found, suggesting that the pressure to publish in so-called high-impact journals is tempting some scientists to cheat.
So, it's time now for our annual countdown of the more interesting journal article retractions of 2016, culled from Retraction Watch, a blog that has been reporting on scientific retractions since 2010.
1. Vaccines still don't cause behavioral problems
It all started back in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield published the now infamously fabricated study in the journal Lancet linking vaccines to autism. That paper was fully retracted in 2010. But you can't keep a bad idea down for long.
Earlier this year, researchers based in Israel published a study in the journal Vaccine that claimed to find a link between the vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) and behavioral issues, in mice. The paper was placed online in January in advance of print publication in an issue of the journal. The anti-vaccine crowd promptly jumped on it as more proof of the dangers of vaccines. [5 Dangerous Vaccine Myths]
But the editors of Vaccine retracted the article within a month, saying in the retraction notice that "the methodology is seriously flawed, and the claims that the article makes are unjustified." Makes you wonder why they accepted the paper in the first place?
Meanwhile, in November 2016, the journal Frontiers in Public Health provisionally accepted a paper linking vaccines to autism and other neurological problems. The study included online questionnaires to 415 mothers of home-schooled children, a group that tends to have strong (negative) feelings about vaccines. The journal has since removed the abstract from its site. The news website Motherboard determined that the study was funded mostly by actress Jenny McCarthy's autism awareness nonprofit, Generation Rescue, which has strong (negative) feelings about vaccines.
Although you can no longer find these two studies, you can still find people commenting on them as if they are real. Maybe that's all that matters in a post-truth world.
Follow Christopher Wanjek @wanjekfor daily tweets on health and science with a humorous edge. Wanjek is the author of "Food at Work" and "Bad Medicine." His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on Live Science.
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