How to avoid retraction of systematic reviews? a cross-sectional study
2Evidence-Based Medicine Center, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
Systematic reviews, which are the highest level of evidence, are an important source of evidence for decision-makers to make scientific decisions. Fraudulent publication is a scourge of scientific research. Retracting is an important way to avoid circulation of low-quality research.
Objectives: To assess the reasons for retraction and characteristics of systematic reviews retracted from 2012 to 2022.
Methods: A review of the Retraction Watch database for retracted systematic review published between 2012 and 2022 was performed. Retractions with the term “health science” in the subject code were selected. We extracted the reasons for retraction, the journals and publishers of the retraction, and the correlation between the journals and their impact factors for statistical analysis.
Results: A total of 235 retracted systematic reviews were included. Retracted papers were published in 228 different journals with IF ranging from 0.27 to 202.73. Most journals were from Q2 (38.7%). The three journals with the highest number of retractions were Tumor Biology (Tumour Biology), Medicine, and PLoS One. From the perspective of publishers, the retracted paper was also mainly concentrated in a few publishers, and more than 50% of the publishers had only one retracted paper. Seven out of 10 papers were withdrawn within three years. The publication years of retracted papers were between 2012 and 2022, with the most retracted systematic reviews in 2014 (n=46, 19.6%). Retracted articles originated from 33 countries. Compared with other countries, China had the highest percentage of retracted papers (n=162, 68.9%), followed by America (n=10, 4.3%), and the United Kingdom (n=9, 3.8%). Most of the articles had multiple reasons for retraction. The most common reported reason for retraction was fake peer review (n=66, 11.8%), followed by Investigation by Journal/Publisher (n=58, 10.4%). Errors (n=157, 28.1%) in paper is the main reason for retraction, including error in data (7.7%), methods (6.6%), image (0.5%), analyses (7.2%), etc.
Conclusions: Academic misconduct is the main problem of systematic review retraction. At the same time, reviewers need to strictly control the publication process to reduce drastically the acceptance of fraudulent papers. Patient, public, and/or healthcare consumer involvement: None.