Teixeira 2022 J Gen Philos Sci

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Teixeira da Silva JA (2022) A synthesis of the formats for correcting erroneous and fraudulent academic literature, and associated challenges. J Gen Philos Sci 53:583-99. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10838-022-09607-4

Β» PMID: 35669840 Open Access

Teixeira da Silva JA (2022) J Gen Philos Sci

Abstract: Academic publishing is undergoing a highly transformative process, and many established rules and value systems that are in place, such as traditional peer review (TPR) and preprints, are facing unprecedented challenges, including as a result of post-publication peer review. The integrity and validity of the academic literature continue to rely naively on blind trust, while TPR and preprints continue to fail to effectively screen out errors, fraud, and misconduct. Imperfect TPR invariably results in imperfect papers that have passed through varying levels of rigor of screening and validation. If errors or misconduct were not detected during TPR's editorial screening, but are detected at the post-publication stage, an opportunity is created to correct the academic record. Currently, the most common forms of correcting the academic literature are errata, corrigenda, expressions of concern, and retractions or withdrawals. Some additional measures to correct the literature have emerged, including manuscript versioning, amendments, partial retractions and retract and replace. Preprints can also be corrected if their version is updated. This paper discusses the risks, benefits and limitations of these forms of correcting the academic literature.

β€’ Bioblast editor: Gnaiger E

Selected quotes

  • In post-publication peer review (PPPR), or simply post-publication analysis, including by members of the public (The Lancet 2020), individual or collective conscience drives individual academics or groups to seek ways to create a more β€œperfect” literature that is as free of error as possible, via the discovery and correction of those errors (Teixeira da Silva 2015a; Arend 2019).
  • When novelty is emphasized at the expense of reliability, the risk of introducing errors into the literature increases (Brembs 2019).
  • Some of the most prominent mechanisms to reveal or expose errors, misconduct or fraud, or induce change and corrections include whistle-blowing and the emergence of science watchdog movements such as Retraction Watch and PubPeer (Teixeira da Silva 2016a; 2018a; van der Heyden 2021), or the expansion of online journal clubs, blogs, and online debates, such as at PubPeer (Ortega 2022).
  • An imbalance between literature that requires correction but that has not been corrected, either because of a lack of corrective mechanisms, transparency, lapses in editorial or publisher responsibility, legal limitations, or other factors, suggests that it may still be easier to publish than to correct the literature (Teixeira da Silva 2017a; Malički et al. 2019; Valdez et al. 2020).
  • This flexibility in the interpretation of rules to correct the literature could also lead to ambiguities as to the best course of action or how best to correct the literature when issuing a partial retraction or an over-sized correction. How many errors, and what level of errors, merit an erratum versus a large correction or retraction (Teixeira da Silva 2016c)?
  • In some cases, β€œpervasive” errors may change the final conclusions, and in such cases Heckers et al. (2015) suggested retracting and replacing the paper with a new version, i.e., a β€œretract and replace” (R&R) mechanism, only if the authors are able to address those errors following reanalysis of their study. Their model is a reasonable and realistic option for authors for the following reasons, and provided that some cautionary measures are followed: (a) it allows authors to correct the literature and set the record straight; (b) it allows the journal and publisher to offer a new and fair opportunity to correct the literature by allowing for a new round of peer review involving new and unbiased reviewers based on a revised and reproducible data set; (c) it assigns responsibility for error, both to the authors for creating the errors, as well as the journal and publisher for not detecting them during TPR and editorial quality control; (d) the model is only good if the β€œold” flawed version remains, with a β€œretracted” stamped across it to indicate that it should not be used or cited, except for educational purposes, and not simply replaced because replacing would erase a historic version of record, which is an important aspect of scholarly publishing.6
  • The processes that underlie the implementation of retractions and other corrective measures need to be standardized and applied more stringently and transparently.


Ambiguity crisis, Gentle Science 

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