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 This citation penalty is more severe when the associated retracted article involves fraud or misconduct, relative to cases where the retraction occurs because of honest mistakes.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.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Science Foundation through its SciSIP Program (Awards SBE-0738142 and SBE-0738394). We thank Heidi Williams, Peter Thompson, and various seminar audiences for insightful comments. Lisa Bassett, Vivienne Groves, James Sappenfield and Mikka Rokkanen provided additional research assistance. The project would not have been possible without Andrew Stellman's extraordinary programming skills (www.stellman-greene.com). All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Pierre Azoulay & Jeffrey L. Furman & Krieger & Fiona Murray, 2015. "Retractions," Review of Economics and Statistics, vol 97(5), pages 1118-1136.