You are here

Reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science

Post-retraction citation

COPE recommendations say that "Prompt retraction should minimise the number of researchers who cite the erroneous work, act on its findings, or draw incorrect conclusions". However, post-retraction citation and use of retracted research remains common, and most post-retraction citation appears to be inadvertent (Hsiao & Schneider, manuscript). Science Magazine recently analyzed 200 post-retraction citations to two high-profile COVID-19 papers published in May 2020 and retracted in June 2020: over half of the citations did not mention the retraction; they noted that publishers and editors were "caught by surprise" and many do not systematically check for retraction or post-publication corrections (Piller, 2021)

Reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science: shaping a research and implementation agenda (RISRS) project

The “Reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science: shaping a research and implementation agenda” (RISRS) project seeks to address this problem. The RISRS project has derived recommendations through a cross-sectoral consultation process involving a scoping review of the literature, stakeholder consultation interviews, and a three part stakeholder workshop. With funding from the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, the RISRS project began consulting with stakeholders from across the scholarly publishing community in 2020. To date, the project has involved editors, researchers, librarians, commercial and scholarly publishers, platform and database providers, research integrity officers, science journalists, funders, staff at professional organizations, and members of standards setting organizations. 

Recommendations for reducing inadvertent citation of retracted citation

The RISRS project is now seeking broad feedback on its recommendations for reducing the inadvertent citation of retracted citation. The top level recommendations are:

  1. Prevent retractions from polluting the literature through the public availability of high quality, consistent information about retractions.

  2. Make retraction information easy to find and use by using clear and consistent display standards. 

  3. Recommend a taxonomy of retraction categories/classifications and corresponding retraction metadata that can be adopted by all stakeholders. 

  4. Develop best practices for coordinating the retraction process. 

  5. Educate stakeholders about retraction and pre- and post-publication stewardship of the scholarly record.

Your feedback

The RISRS white paper is currently open for public comment as a preprint. Feedback from COPE members would be particularly welcome in order to refine these recommendations. The implementation agenda mentions multiple areas for COPE to act including establishing working groups to (a) create a standardized taxonomy of retraction categories; (b) refine the workflow template to initiate a retraction inquiry; and (c) encourage adoption of a standard checklist of the information required in a retraction notice. If you have feedback, or are interested in collaborating on efforts to address the continued citation of retracted research, please contact Jodi Schneider.


COPE Council (2019). COPE Retraction guidelines—English. Committee on Publication Ethics. Version 2: November 2019.

Hsiao, Tzu-Kun, & Schneider, Jodi. Continued Use of Retracted Papers: Temporal Trends in Citations and (Lack of) Awareness of Retractions Shown in Citation Contexts in Biomedicine. Manuscript in preparation. Preprint at

Piller, Charles (2021). Many scientists citing two scandalous COVID-19 papers ignore their retractions. Science.

Dr.Jodi Schneider (PI), Assistant Professor, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Related resources and articles

Retraction guidelines, COPE

Retraction taxonomy project news: COPE on the working group