Retracted articles represent research withdrawn from the existing body of literature after publication. Research articles may be retracted for several reasons ranging from honest errors to intentional misconduct. They should not be used as reliable sources, and it is unclear why they are cited occasionally by other articles. This study hypothesized that several mechanisms may contribute to citing retracted literature and aimed to analyze the characteristics of articles citing retracted literature in anesthesiology and critical care.
Using the Retraction Watch database, we retrieved retracted articles on anesthesiology and intensive care medicine up to August 16, 2021, and identified the papers citing these retracted articles. A survey designed to investigate the reasons for citing these articles was sent to the corresponding authors of the citing papers.
We identified 478 retracted articles, 220 (46%) of which were cited at least once. We contacted 1297 corresponding authors of the papers that cited these articles, 417 (30%) of whom responded to our survey and were included in the final analysis. The median number of authors in the analyzed articles was five, and the median elapsed time from retraction to citation was 3 yr. Most of the corresponding authors (372, 89%) were unaware of the retracted status of the cited article, mainly because of inadequate notification of the retraction status in journals and/or databases and the use of stored copies.
The corresponding authors were generally unaware of the retraction of the cited article, usually because of inadequate identification of the retracted status in journals and/or web databases and the use of stored copies. Awareness of this phenomenon and rigorous control of the cited references before submitting a paper are of fundamental importance in research.
- Research articles may be retracted for reasons ranging from honest errors to intentional misconduct
- Retracted articles are occasionally cited in articles published subsequent to the retraction, although they should not be
- The Retraction Watch database was used to identify 478 retracted anesthesiology and critical care medicine articles, 220 (46%) of which were cited at least once after retraction
- A survey was sent to 417 of the corresponding authors of the articles citing retracted articles (30% of 1,402 such articles) who could be contacted and agreed to participate in a survey designed to determine reasons for citation of retracted articles
- Most of the corresponding authors (n = 372, 89%) were unaware that they had cited a retracted article largely because of missed identification of the retraction status in the journals or search database (n = 229, 62%) and use of a stored copy of the article (n = 42, 11%)