Re: Retraction from a Journal vs. Withdrawal from an Archive

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 6 Jan 2006 20:09:27 +0000

On Fri, 6 Jan 2006, Barry Mahon wrote:

> From The Registry -
> If a paper is withdrawn following further review, as [the Hwang] one has been,
> and it is already on an institutional or other server (as a peer reviewed
> paper...) then who is responsible for withdrawing it, or is there
> any obligation to withdraw? In general terms is there any mechanism in
> place to 'manage' papers which have been withdrawn (for whatever reason)
> but are posted in multiple locations?

(1) First, we must distinguish publishing from self-archiving, and,
correspondingly, retraction from withdrawal.

(2) Journals publish, authors self-archive (and may self-archive their own
publications, to increase their access and impact).

(3) If error or fraud is discovered, journals "retract" or "unpublish"
articles that they have published (often at the request, usually with
the agreement, of the authors).

(4) The retraction announcement is published (but is not necessarily seen
by all possible users).

(5) Journal article retraction does not mean that the article is cut out
of every existing copy of the journal. (Some conscientious libraries might
conceivably paste in a note into the bound volume, but I doubt that happens

(6) Hence it is users who must be alert to whether or not a published article
has since been retracted.

(7) Self-archived versions are like copies of journals, on extra (virtual)

(8) Conscientious authors will withdraw their retracted articles from archives
they have archived them in.

(9) Conscientious archives may either append a metadata tag that the article has
been retracted, or may withdraw it from the archive.

(10) Retractions are exceedingly rare.

(11) None of this has anything to do with Open Access.

> BTW in a recent issue of Le Monde a distinguished French researcher
> (and personal friend of Hwang) commented on the limitations of the peer
> review process vis a vis situations such as the failure of the Hwang
> material - he made the point that, in areas such as stem cell work,
> peer review can only be 'good' if the reviewer re-did the work....

Peer review is and always was a fallible process. That too has nothing to
do with Open Access -- except that Open Access makes it more likely that
error or fraud will be detected, and detected sooner, with wider notice.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Jan 06 2006 - 20:16:22 GMT

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