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Retractions New guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)

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Elizabeth Wager, Virginia Barbour, Steven Yentis, Sabine Kleinert on behalf of COPE Council

Journal editors should consider retracting a publication if:

  • they have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error)

  • the findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper cross-referencing, permission or justification (i.e. cases of redundant publication)

  • it constitutes plagiarism

  • it reports unethical research

Journal editors should consider issuing an expression of concern if:

  • they receive inconclusive evidence of research or publication misconduct by the authors

  • there is evidence that the findings are unreliable but the authors’ institution will not investigate the case

  • they believe that an investigation into alleged misconduct related to the publication either has not been, or would not be, fair and impartial or conclusive

  • an investigation is underway but a judgement will not be available for a considerable time

Journal editors should consider issuing a correction if:

  • a small portion of an otherwise reliable publication proves to be misleading (especially because of honest error)

  • the author / contributor list is incorrect (i.e. a deserving author has been omitted or somebody who does not meet authorship criteria has been included)

Retractions are not usually appropriate if:

  • a change of authorship is required but there is no reason to doubt the validity of the findings

The full guidelines can be accessed at http://publicationethics.org/

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