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Want to Win a Nobel Prize? Retract a Paper.

C C Offline

EXCERPT: . . . The simplistic message might be: Want to win a Nobel Prize? Try retracting a paper. That logic is obviously ridiculous. It confuses correlation with causation in a way that—wait for it—should be retracted. The vast majority of those who’ve won Nobel Prizes have not retracted any papers, and the vast majority of retractions were not by those who’ve won Nobels. The advice is as tongue-in-cheek as Nobelist Richard Roberts’ “Ten Simple Rules to Win A Nobel Prize,” which include “Be Sure to Pick Your Family Carefully” (meaning, yes, your biological family) and “Always Be Nice to Swedish Scientists.”

But what isn’t absurd is the idea that admitting mistakes shouldn’t be an indelible mark of Cain that kills your career. Quite the opposite. A growing body of evidence points to this encouraging conclusion: Scientists who acknowledge honest errors and retract their flawed findings send a signal to their colleagues and peers that their future studies are worthy of trust. In turn, those researchers are no less likely to cite those studies—an essential form of endorsement in science. (We should also note that when it’s clear a retraction is for misconduct, researchers see a significant dip in citations, which is a reminder that scientists still look down on such behavior.)

Still, although the noble actions of the aforementioned Nobel winners are encouraging, they’re not likely to trigger a flood of nostra culpa from scientists...


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