According to Retraction Watch, roughly 500 to 600 publications are retracted by journals each year. The guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) state that journals should retract publications where there is clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, or where the publication contains unethical research, work that has been published elsewhere or plagiarism. But what should you do if a publication that you have cited in your own work is subsequently retracted? A blog post on Retraction Watch offers some advice.
Authors should first consider carefully whether the retraction directly affects the conclusions of their own work. For primary research papers, retraction of an article that has been cited in the discussion might change the tone of the discussion but is unlikely to alter the study’s conclusions. However, if the retracted paper has been cited as part of a systematic review, or included in a meta-analysis, the validity of the conclusions may well have been compromised. A correction would then be required to avoid misleading readers. This will also help ensure that the retracted paper does not continue to accrue citations. If in doubt, authors are advised to contact the journal that issued the retraction to agree an appropriate course of action.