Characterization of Publications on Post-Retraction Citation of Retracted Articles

Jodi Schneider,1 Randi Proescholdt,1,2 Jacqueline Leveille,1 Susmita Das,1 for the Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science (RISRS) Team


Existing literature reviews about retraction do not analyze postretraction citation. This research synthesized a subgroup of empirical studies about retraction and reports what is known about postretraction citation.


This was a subanalysis of a previously reported scoping review.1 A total of 386 items about retraction were found by double screening a systematic search of PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science up to February 10, 2021; Scopus-cited reference searching in January 2021; and hand searching up to July 2021.1 Items comprised published and unpublished (work in progress) research reports. Subsequent to the previous report, a custom taxonomy2 of methods, research goals, and research was iteratively created and made searchable via an online bibliography.3 For the subanalysis, the scope was narrowed to postretraction citation after excluding items on citation-related implications for review literature and authors’ careers, publicity, and altmetrics. A codebook to guide data extraction was developed and piloted. Data extraction and analysis is ongoing.


This subanalysis included 92 items up to July 2021 on postretraction citation of retracted papers. Items were classified into 7 topics: database-focused analyses (n = 33) (eg, PubMed and Web of Science); field-based case studies (n = 20) (eg, genetics, radiology, and thoracic surgery); paper-focused case studies of 1 to 125 selected papers (n = 15); author-focused case studies of 1 or several authors with many retracted publications (n = 15) (eg, Bruening, Darsee, and Reuben); studies of retracted publications cited in review literature (n = 8); geographic case studies (n = 4) (focusing on Brazil, the European Union, Italy, and South Korea); and studies selecting retracted publications by method (n = 2) (eg, human subjects and randomized clinical trials). Five items were classified as belonging to 2 topics each. Empirical research about postretraction citation has been published in a diffuse set of journals, primarily in journals of ethics, information science, meta-science and scientometrics, and domain sciences, especially medical specialties. The earliest 2 studies identified were both published in 1990; 1 study was an author-focused case study of citations to Stephen E. Breuning’s publications and the other studied 82 Index Medicus articles retracted, with retraction notices in Index Medicus as of 1990 and citations from SCISEARCH. From 1990 to 2017, a total of 1 to 3 items were found per year except in 2016 (5 items), and from January 2018 to July 2021, 11 to 18 items per year were found on postretraction citation. Almost all of these items focused on health sciences (eg, medicine, dentistry, nursing, psychology, and pharmacy), with 1 item focused on arts and humanities and 2 items focused on engineering.


Postretraction citation has been studied consistently since 1990, with increasing attention since 2018. This analysis found an increasing number of items on postretraction citation from January 2018 to July 2021. However, relevant work published after July 2021 was not included, and items published earlier may have been missed from the scoping review. Inclusion of work in progress may have increased publication counts for the most recent years.


1. Schneider J, Woods ND, Proescholdt R, Fu Y; RISRS Team. Recommendations from the Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: shaping a research and implementation agenda project. MetaArXiv Preprints. Preprint posted online July 28, 2021. doi:10.31222/osf.io/ms579

2. Proescholdt R, Schneider J. Comparison set guide for empirical retraction lit. University of Illinois IDEALS Repository. Deposited September 10, 2021. https://hdl.handle.net/2142/110389

3. Proescholdt R, Schneider J; RISRS Team. Empirical retraction lit bibliography. Version 2.20. Zenodo. September 9, 2021. doi:10.5281/zenodo.5498500

1University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA, jodi@illinois.edu; 2Menlo College, Atherton, CA, USA

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Jodi Schneider has been an invited speaker for scholarly publishing organizations Committee on Publication Ethics, CrossRef, the European Association of Science Editors, the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the National Information Standards Organization, and STM; has received data-in-kind from Retraction Watch and scite; and has received usability testing compensation from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. No other disclosures were reported.


This project was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (G-2020-12623).

Role of the Funder/Sponsor

The study sponsor had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the abstract; and decision to submit the abstract for presentation.