I’ve always had a hunch that this was true…

Retracted Science and the Retraction Index:

A plot of the journal retraction index versus the impact factor revealed a surprisingly robust correlation between the journal retraction index and its impact factor (P < 0.0001 by Spearman rank correlation) (Fig. 1). Although correlation does not imply causality, this preliminary investigation suggests that the probability that an article published in a higher-impact journal will be retracted is higher than that for an article published in a lower-impact journal.

The charitable interpretation is that high-impact journals are willing to take higher risks in exchange for a bigger splash. And of course there is a not-so-charitable interpretation… a focus on big splash and getting a big scoop trumps scientific rigor.

(h/t io9)

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

2 thoughts on “I’ve always had a hunch that this was true…”

  1. What about the possibility that the higher the impact journal, the more people will see it and therefore it will get higher scrutiny and more people trying to replicate the results. It could just be that the rate of scientific error is the same no matter what, it just gets ignored or not noticed in the lower journals.

    1. That’s one possibility. But I see it as a less likely explanation, because I doubt that Nature, Science, and Cell papers are scrutinized by those with the relevant expertise much more than PNAS or EMBO J. papers. If it’s an important paper in your specific field, you’re going to read it whether it’s in Nature or Genes & Development.

      On the other hand, it could be that there are fewer big, bold new claims in lower-impact-factor journals, and it’s the papers that put out bold claims that get scrutinized the most.

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