Retraction Notices: A Rant


I like Open Access journals. As a student – one without an on-campus office where I can ruthlessly exploit the University’s proxy server – they make my life easier. I appreciate what they’re trying to do. But at the same time, I understand for-pay journals. Science, after all, costs money, even the publishing side. And it’s often hard to publish in open access journals – putting a paper in them, or designating a paper in a for-pay journal to be Open Access is an expensive proposition. Especially when you’re working on an unfunded or lightly funded side project.

So I’m not annoyed when your article is behind a paywall. I’m really not. The exception is for Retraction notices. More after the jump…

I’ve been lucky enough to never have had to come near one of my own papers being retracted. And there are all kinds of reason, from the modest and semi-innocuous “Something slipped past us and this paper’s just wrong…” to outright mustache-twirling villainy ala Andrew Wakefield. There’s already a swirl of speculation around why a paper might get retracted.

But regardless of the why, the overall message is the same: “We screwed up, this shouldn’t have made it into the journal, and is now gone.”

That’s an editorial bit of information. It contains no more content than the subscription information, or “About this Journal” or any of the other front matter that surrounds the actual meat of the journal.

So why, Journal of Hospital Infection, is there a retraction notice in your August, 2011 issue that is behind a paywall? It’s a retraction notice, not an article. “There have been errors” is something that should be open and accessible, regardless of the funding structure of the journal itself. And it’s certainly not worth $31.50 just to read how you screwed up.


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