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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 352-354

Retraction rates of research articles addressing COVID-19 pandemic: Is it the evolving COVID epidemiology or scientific misconduct?

1 Department of Epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India
2 Department of Pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Date of Submission14-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance05-Dec-2020
Date of Web Publication29-May-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Deepak Saxena
Department of Epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar - 382 042, Gujarat
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_732_20

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How to cite this article:
Shah K, Charan J, Sinha A, Saxena D. Retraction rates of research articles addressing COVID-19 pandemic: Is it the evolving COVID epidemiology or scientific misconduct?. Indian J Community Med 2021;46:352-4

How to cite this URL:
Shah K, Charan J, Sinha A, Saxena D. Retraction rates of research articles addressing COVID-19 pandemic: Is it the evolving COVID epidemiology or scientific misconduct?. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 17];46:352-4. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2021/46/2/352/317091


With global pandemic underway, there has been a pandemic of research/academic publications as well. As on August 15, 2020, around 100,000 articles have been published globally and around 76% of these are focused on medical, public health, and health services.[1] There have been growing concerns from the academia on this mad rush to publish, especially when the epidemiology of COVID-19 is still evolving.

With this letter, we aim to provide findings from a systematic study evaluating the retraction rate (RR) of scientific publication addressing COVID-19 research and reasons for retraction. For this, the Retraction Watch Database (http://retractiondatabase. org/RetractionSearch.aspx) was systematically screened for retraction records associated with COVID-19 publications along with PubMed as on August 15, 2020.

The search yielded 30 retracted/withdrawn articles studying various scientific aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic [Table 1]. A spectrum of journals retracting the articles was relatively heterogeneous with high impact factor and reputed journals to preprint health science servers. Majority of the articles retracted were due to postpublication criticism, inability to produce/support study conclusion or claim through data, and nonadherence to research ethics. Maximum, i.e., one-third of the retracted articles, were authored from China (33.3%). The fastest retraction was 48 h, and overall, it ranged from 2 to 57 days, however, in seven articles, the duration was not specified.
Table 1: Characteristic findings of the retracted articles

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Retraction is a mechanism for correcting the literature and alerting readers to the articles that contain such seriously flawed or erroneous content or data because of which their findings and conclusions cannot be relied upon. The main purpose of retraction is to correct the literature and ensure its integrity rather than to punish the authors.[2],[3],[4] With PubMed reporting publication of 37,970 articles (using COVID-19 as a search term in PubMed on August 15) in the year 2020 related to COVID-19, the RR for scientific publication related to COVID-19 comes to 8.67/10,000 articles published, which is relatively higher than RR with reference RR of articles reporting other diseases (2.3–3.9/10000 articles).[3] Although retraction of articles publishing research on COVID-19 started in January 2020 itself, it started receiving major attention after retraction of a huge study published by lancet showing higher mortality and ventricle tachycardia in COVID patients treated with hydroxychloroquine. While this pandemic requires quick dissemination of information, sharing of preprint articles on media and other platforms without journal-mediated peer-review needs to be considered rationally. It becomes a collective responsibility of researchers, publishers, and media. Hence, overall a possible solution can be either adherence to prescribed guidelines, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics, or has a check on preprints and speedy peer-review process. A critical balance can ensure faith in academic publications.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Abritis A, Marcus A, Oransky I. An “alarming” and “exceptionally high” rate of COVID-19 retractions? Account Res 2020;11:1-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
Yeo-Teh NS, Tang BL. An alarming retraction rate for scientific publications on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Account Res 2020;23:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Wager E, Barbour V, Yentis S, Kleinert S. Retractions: guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Croat Med J 2009;50:532-5.  Back to cited text no. 4


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