NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Retractions

Pierre Azoulay, Jeffrey L. Furman, Joshua L. Krieger, Fiona E. Murray

NBER Working Paper No. 18499
Issued in October 2012
NBER Program(s):   PR

To what extent does “false science” impact the rate and direction of scientific change? We examine the impact of more than 1,100 scientific retractions on the citation trajectories of articles that are related to retracted papers in intellectual space but were published prior to the retraction event. Our results indicate that following retraction and relative to carefully selected controls, related articles experience a lasting five to ten percent decline in the rate of citations received. This citation penalty is more severe when the associated retracted article involves fraud or misconduct, relative to cases where the retraction occurs because of honest mistakes. In addition, we find that the arrival rate of new articles and funding flows into these fields decrease after a retraction. We probe the mechanisms that might underlie these negative spillovers. The evidence is consistent with the view that scientists avoid retraction-afflicted fields lest their own reputation suffer through mere association, but we cannot rule out the possibility that our estimates also reflect scientists’ learning about these fields’ shaky intellectual foundations.

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This paper was revised on January 2, 2014

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