Letter to the Editor

Not-so-sound reporting

San Luis ObispoOctober 8, 2012 

The Oct. 2 article “Fraud main reason science studies retracted,” by Bloomberg News, is a good example of not-so-sound reporting. There is not enough information in the article to allow a person with reasonable critical thinking skills to sort out if there is really a serious issue relating to fraud in scientific studies. For example, there is no information con cerning to the total number of papers that have been retracted or the total number of papers being published. Is the retraction rate 1 in a100 or 1 in 1 million? The reporter also notes there was a 10-fold increase in retractions since 1975, but does not provide us with any information about the basis of that number. If the retraction rate was 1 in 1 million, and now it is 10 in 1 million, I would not be too concerned. But if the rate was 1 in a 100 and now it is 10 in a 100 I would be more concerned. Of course, if the increase is in actual number of retractions, then knowing how the total number of publications has changed since 1975 would be an important piece of information in understanding this issue. Too bad there is not a peer review process in news reporting.

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