Propagation of errors in citation networks: a study involving the entire citation network of a widely cited paper published in, and later retracted from, the journal Nature

P.E. van der Vet, Harmen Nijveen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Background In about one in 10,000 cases, a published article is retracted. This very often means that the results it reports are flawed. Several authors have voiced concerns about the presence of retracted research in the memory of science. In particular, a retracted result is propagated by citing it. In the published literature, many instances are given of retracted articles that are cited both before and after their retraction. Even worse is the possibility that these articles in turn are cited in such a way that the retracted result is propagated further. Methods We have conducted a case study to find out how a retracted article is cited and whether retracted results are propagated through indirect citations. We have constructed the entire citation network for this case. Results We show that directly citing articles is an important source of propagation of retracted research results. In contrast, in our case study, indirect citations do not contribute to the propagation of the retracted result. Conclusions While admitting the limitations of a study involving a single case, we think there are reasons for the non-contribution of indirect citations that hold beyond our case study.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)3
    Number of pages10
    JournalResearch integrity and peer review
    Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016


    • EWI-27008
    • Retractions
    • IR-100639
    • Citation networks
    • METIS-317200
    • Error propagation

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