It’s never an easy thing, finding out that your work isn’t completely right AFTER it’s been published. The career of a scientist still hangs on the number of publications they have, so how do you manage a retraction?
“The rise in retractions could be because scientists are making more errors, but it could also indicate a growing culture of coming clean on errors.”
Apart from human errors, what is causing the increasing number of retractions? According to a PNAS study from 2012, “two-thirds of retracted life-sciences papers were stricken from the scientific record because of misconduct such as fraud or suspected fraud — and that journals sometimes soft-pedal the reason.”
One of the main themes of this particular Nature Careers article, Retractions: A clean slate, is that scientists should be open and honest about the mistakes made. A retraction doesn’t need to be a dirty secret anymore – as the world of science depends on people adding to published work. If your work contains errors, theirs might have some too. This is something that drove Pamela Ronald, a crop scientist at the University of California Davis, who was interviewed for the article, to come clean about her errors.
“Once she was sure that there was a problem, she contacted colleagues to highlight the issue and gave a public seminar to inform the international community. “I was alarmed that others were trying to build on this work when we couldn’t, and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time,” she says.”
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