Despite steps taken by researchers and journals to maintain research integrity, a small proportion of published papers (around 0.04% as of 2018) go on to be retracted. Lately, retractions of high profile articles related to COVID-19 have been well publicised, although this is not the norm for other topics. Because retractions are often inadequately communicated, these papers may still be cited in other publications without mention of the retraction—potentially misleading the audience or even invalidating meta-analysis results. A recent article in Nature Index discusses the risks that retractions pose to the scientific literature and the steps being taken to tackle this issue.
One such strategy is the scite Reference Check bot, which flags publications that have cited retracted articles post-retraction on Twitter. The tool can also be used to check the references in an uploaded manuscript, for a small fee. While the tool will incorrectly flag citations which appropriately specify that the article was retracted, authors rarely provide this kind of clarification within the citation. As such, the tool is not expected to generate many false positives.
The bot is a new addition to the arsenal of resources that can be used to identify retracted articles.
The bot is a new addition to the arsenal of resources that can be used to identify retracted articles, including the Retraction Watch Database, Zotero and Open Retractions. These tools acknowledge the threat that retractions pose to science and represent a meaningful step towards achieving greater research integrity.