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March 9, 1990

Correcting the Literature Following Fraudulent Publication

JAMA. 1990;263(10):1416-1419. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440100136019

To gain a better understanding of the problem of dealing with publications whose integrity is subsequently challenged, experience in a well-documented case of research fraud was reviewed. At the University of California San Diego, a faculty committee evaluated 135 publications of Robert Slutsky, MD, and reported to each of the corresponding 30 journals whether each article was valid, questionable, or fraudulent, requesting publication of the criteria and the conclusions. Journals responded slowly to this request; half required additional letters over a 2-year period to elicit a reply. Of the 13 journals that had only valid articles, 5 printed a statement to that effect. Statements concerning 46 of 60 nonvalid articles were eventually published. Journals' inconsistent identification of published statements made it difficult to retrieve them by electronic searching. Only 7 notices covering 15 articles were found by searching under the Medical Subject Heading "Retraction of Publication"; scanning the entire bibliography retrieved 18 articles with retraction notations. A poll showed that journals rarely have written procedures for responding to allegations of research misconduct; in our experience, journals were reluctant to accept authorized retractions or corrections when coauthors failed to act.

(JAMA. 1990;263:1416-1419)