An Estimation of the Retraction Gap Across Neurosurgery-A Crevice or a Chasm?

World Neurosurg. 2021 May 28;S1878-8750(21)00762-2. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2021.05.067. Online ahead of print.


Background: The incidence of retractions has been increasing steadily, in direct proportion to the volume of scientific literature. Retraction of published articles depends on the visibility of journals and on postpublication scrutiny of published articles by peers. The possibility thus exists that not all compromised ("retractable") articles are detected and retracted from the less-visible journals. The proportion of "retractable" articles and its converse, the proportion of published articles in each journal that are likely to be "true" (PTP), have not been estimated hitherto.

Methods: Three journal sets were created: pure neurosurgery journals (NS-P), the neurosurgery component of multidisciplinary journals (NS-MD), and high-impact clinical journals (HICJs). We described a new metric (the retraction gap [RGap]), defined as the proportion of retractable articles in journals that have not been retracted. We computed the expected number of retractable articles, RGap, and PTP for each journal, and compared these metrics across groups.

Results: Fifty-three NS-P journals, 10 NS-MD journals, and 63 HICJs were included in the analysis. The estimated number of retractable articles was 31 times the actual number of retractions in NS-P journals, 6 times higher in the NS-MD journals, and 26 times higher for the HICJs. The RGap was 96.7% for the NS-P group, 83.5% for the NS-MD group, and 96.2% for the HICJs. The PTP was 99.3% in the NS-P group, 99.2% in the NS-MD group, and 98.6% in the HICJs.

Conclusions: Neurosurgery as a discipline had a higher RGap but also a higher PTP than the other 2 groups.

Keywords: Impact factor; Journals; Neurosurgery; Peer review; Postpublication scrutiny; Rate of retractions; Retraction gap; Retractions.