Patterns of retractions from 1981-2020 : Does a fraud lead to another fraud?

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Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications and this database reveals the disturbing trend in science~\citep{fang2012misconduct, brainard2018massive}. The objective of the study is to find the association among the authors’ collaboration, the number of retracted papers, the number of retracted citations, journal impact factor, and research areas. We present a detailed analysis of 12231 research papers indexed by Web of Science (WoS) as retracted publications from 1981-2020. The study demonstrates the collaboration patterns of retracted publications where 61.5% of authors have only one and 24.6% have two retracted papers; however, 2% of authors have more than 10 retracted papers. To study the impact of citing retracted papers, we investigated the retracted papers with citations. The study reveals that 55.2% of retracted papers have been cited at least once, where 25.4% of papers are such papers where at least one citation turned out to be a retraction. This shows the impact of scientific misconduct or fraud on new research. The number of retractions is independent of the journal impact factor and as compared to high impact papers, low impact papers are attracting more citations. We also investigate the citations received by retracted papers published in higher as well as lower impact factor journals. 1/4th of the papers are retracted citations that cited the retracted papers; however, there is no significant relationship exists between the higher impact or lower impact journals with retractions or citations. Finally, how the average team size and average retracted citations vary among different research areas are studied. The study provides an insight that how a fraud leads to another fraud in the scientific world. Also, the rising trend of citations of retracted papers is a serious concern.

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