The Effect of Self-Retraction on the Researchers’ Career?

What would you do if you realize that you made a mistake in the process of the research you had conducted which undermines the results of your published paper. This could be an error in labeling. Therefore, the cell lines you worked on were not the ones you believed to be. You think about the consequences: your unintentional mistake will mislead other scientists who spend resources trying to repeat your experiment. You decide to self-retract your paper before the occurrence of more damage. The message of your retraction to the scientific community is that the research you published is invalid. But what are the other consequences in your career?

Paper retraction and consequences

Paper retraction has long been associated with academic fraud. So, will other authors cite your future publications if you self-retract your paper? Will you get funding or will you get a job?

It is good to know that the academic community tend to forgive genuine mistakes. These mistakes can be informing to other scientists and besides they “clean up” the literature, to the benefit of all.

Being an “author of self-retracted article” can raise questions when applying for a career, but it is not necessarily a negative point. For example, it shows that you:

  1. Are honest.
  2. Have a critical mind.
  3. Learn from past mistakes
  4. Are open to those challenging your assumptions

Self-retracting a paper

Although no journal or author likes to retract a paper, mistakes do happen. Therefore, journals usually have retraction guidelines in place. The guidelines help academic publishers preserve a quality standard that keep consistency within a field.  The journals apply different retraction policies; nevertheless, the overall approach is the same. Do the followings:

  1. Tell all co-authors of the paper about the mistake.
  2. Explain the reason for your self-retraction to the editor
  3. Inquire about their self-retraction guidelines of the journal
  4. In some cases, you should look for legal advice. The publication team members, from researcher to editors decide it.

Scholars who owned their mistakes

A research has been done about life after self-retraction. Nathan Georgette, a Harvard Medical School student, retracted his first published paper. This had no negative effect on his career.

Pamela Roland, another researcher from the University of California, not only self-retracted her paper but she also told the research community about her mistake at a conference. Though it was the most challenging talk of her life, scientists at the conference congratulated her for doing the right thing.

In the end, responsible scientific literature is essential for all individuals. Applaud self-retraction instead of slandering it. The examples given here shows that the academic community react positively to those researchers who own their mistakes and self-retract a paper.  

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