A retraction can achieve more publicity than the original paper

A jaundiced view of retractions and questions of a cynical kind:

  1. Could an article or paper be deliberately written so as to be retracted later for the ensuing publicity?
  2. Can a deliberate retraction be managed so as to generate credit for the journal or the author who requests the retraction?
  3. And is it not “perfectly correct” to cite a retracted paper in a subsequent paper as a  “publication (retracted)”?

A retraction – if sufficiently “interesting” – can get more publicity than the original paper. It may be a cliche but it is nonetheless true  that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And if the retraction is at the “request of the authors” the author may actually demonstrate and even build a reputation for integrity!

This story at Retraction Watch of an article pulled by Slate raises my suspicions that just publicity was actually the objective.


Slate has retracted an essay they published as part of a partnership with Quora, an online question-and-answer site, after acknowledging that they “did not vet the piece properly.”

The piece garnered hundreds of comments, many of which questioned whether its claims were legit, and some of which pointed out that the author may have posted questionable material on the web before.

This now appears where the article, originally published at 5:01 p.m. on Thursday, July 25, originally did:

Editor’s note: On July 25, Slate published in this space an essay from its partner site Quora titled “Are Doctors Biased Against Obese People?” Because the piece did not meet our editorial standards, we have taken it down.

On Friday at 6:09 p.m., brandchannel started a post about the article with a quote from the piece:

When I was pregnant, one OB called me disgusting and told me to have an abortion.

brandchannel doesn’t mention the retraction, which Slate tells us happened Friday night, just over 24 hours after it as originally posted. But brandchannel anticipated that move, including the entire Slate-Quora piece saved for posterity, …..

I note also from Professor Debora Weber-Wulff’s blog that retracted papers still show up being cited – as retractions – in other papers. The paper is in PLoS and is supposedly a peer-reviewed online publication.

36. Rathinam C, Klein C (2012) Retraction: transcriptional repressor gfi1 integrates cytokine-receptor signals controlling B-cell differentiation. PLoS One 7.

Retraction? Are they citing the retraction of the article as a reference for what had been stated in the article retracted? 

Retracted papers are also being included in CV’s! I suppose that the paper was accepted for publication – even if later retracted – is some kind of an achievement!

It reminds me of the old story where CV’s in India would regularly include something like

“BA, 1943, University of Aligarh (fail)”.

This was considered – socially and academically – acceptable as proof that the author had at least done the course and had appeared for the examination!


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