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Good practices

A retraction with explicit criticism

When a journal announces the retraction of a scientific article, it usually reports the problem with the paper without making any judgment of the authors’ behavior. But when the Brain Research Bulletin, a neuroscience journal published by Elsevier, announced the retraction of a 2017 article on the effect of the hormone erythropoietin in rats, it decided to clearly explain why. The authors of the paper, three anesthesiologists from Cangzhou Central Hospital in China, duplicated much of its content from their own publications in three other journals in the same year. “Redundant publications jeopardize the integrity of the scientific literature,” states the retraction notice. “They overweigh the relative importance of published findings and distort the academic record of the authors,” it adds. Molecular neurobiologist Andres Buonanno, editor in chief of the Brain Research Bulletin, explained to the news website Retraction Watch that the notice was written to purposely emphasize the impact of scientific misconduct after it was found that the authors had circumvented the rules and misled the journal. “We will continue to use this type of language when it is clear authors have acted in bad faith,” said Buonanno, a researcher at the US National Institutes of Health.

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