Objective: The aim was to evaluate papers retracted due to falsification in high-impact journals. Study Design and Setting: We selected articles retracted due to allegations of falsification in January 1, 1980 to March 1, 2006 from journals with impact factor >10 and >30,000 annual citations. We evaluated characteristics of these papers and misconduct-involved authors and assessed whether they correlated with time to retraction. We also compared retracted articles vs. matched nonretracted articles in the same journals. Results: Fourteen eligible journals had 63 eligible retracted articles. Median time from publication to retraction was 28 months; it was 79 months for articles where a senior researcher was implicated in the misconduct vs. 22 months when junior researchers were implicated (log-rank P < 0.001). For the 25 implicated authors, the median time from the first publication of a fraudulent paper to the first retraction was 34 months, again with a clear difference according to researcher rank (log-rank P = 0.001). Retracted articles didn't differ from matched nonretracted papers in citations received within 12 months, number of authors, country, funding, or field, but were twofold more likely to have multinational authorship (P = 0.049). Conclusions: Retractions due to falsification can take a long time, especially when senior researchers are implicated. Fraudulent articles are not obviously distinguishable from nonfraudulent ones.
- Senior investigators