2021 Volume 16, Issue 5, e0248625
The number of retracted articles has grown fast. However, the extent to which researchers and the public are made adequately aware of these retractions and how the media and social media respond to them remains unknown. Here, we aimed to evaluate the media and social media attention received by retracted articles and assess also the attention they receive post-retraction versus pre-retraction. We downloaded all records of retracted literature maintained by the Retraction Watch Database and originally published between January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2015. For all 3,008 retracted articles with a separate DOI for the original and its retraction, we downloaded the respective Altmetric Attention Score (AAS) (from Altmetric) and citation count (from Crossref), for the original article and its retraction notice on June 6, 2018. We also compared the AAS of a random sample of 572 retracted full journal articles available on PubMed to that of unretracted full articles matched from the same issue and journal. 1,687 (56.1%) of retracted research articles received some amount of Altmetric attention, and 165 (5.5%) were even considered popular (AAS>20). 31 (1.0%) of 2,953 with a record on Crossref received >100 citations by June 6, 2018. Popular articles received substantially more attention than their retraction, even after adjusting for attention received post-retraction (Median difference, 29; 95% CI, 17–61). Unreliable results were the most frequent reason for retraction of popular articles (32; 19%), while fake peer review was the most common reason (421; 15%) for the retraction of other articles. In comparison to matched articles, retracted articles tended to receive more Altmetric attention (23/31 matched groups; P-value, 0.01), even after adjusting for attention received post-retraction. Our findings reveal that retracted articles may receive high attention from media and social media and that for popular articles, pre-retraction attention far outweighs post-retraction attention.
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