Citation of retracted publications: A challenging problem

Mark J. Bolland*, Andrew Grey, Alison Avenell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Scientific publications with compromised integrity should be retracted. Papers citing retracted publications might need correction if findings depend on the retracted publication. While many studies have reported on post-retraction citations, few have focused on citations made before the retraction. We investigated the citation profile for a research group with 113 published concerns regarding publication integrity (CRPI). We identified 376 of their source publications that were cited by 5577 articles, and whether the source publication had a published CRPI. Of 6926 references to a source publication in these citing articles, for 3925 (57%) the source article had a published CRPI, while for 3001 (43%) it did not. Of these 3925 references, 3688 were in citing articles published before the source article CRPI was published. 166 citing articles containing 198 references to source publications were published after the corresponding source article CRPI was published (range 1–5 such references/article; 19/166 (11%) articles had >1 reference). In summary, many articles cite retracted publications, with the majority of these references occurring before the retraction. However, very few publications assess the impact of the retracted citations, even though the findings of many might be altered, at least in part, by removal of the retracted citation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-25
Number of pages8
JournalAccountability in Research
Issue number1
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

The study received no specific funding. MB is a recipient of an HRC Clinical Practitioners Fellowship. The Health Services Research Unit is funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates. The authors are independent of the HRC. The HRC had no role in design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


  • citation
  • retraction
  • expression of concern
  • publication integrity


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