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WCRI 2019: What makes a story a story?

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World Conference on Research Integrity, Hong Kong

Published in: Science
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WCRI 2019: What makes a story a story?

  1. 1. A journalist’s view: What makes a story a story? Ivan Oransky, MD Co-Founder, Retraction Watch Distinguished Writer In Residence, NYU (Journalism) Vice President, Editorial, Medscape @ivanoransky WCRI Hong Kong June 3, 2019
  2. 2. Why We Launched Retraction Watch August 3, 2010
  3. 3. New York Times, October 15, 2010 What Was A Story in 2010? A Retraction Was Enough
  4. 4. The Retraction Watch Database retractiondatabase.org
  5. 5. Retractions By The Numbers Year # of Retractions # of Papers Published % 2000 38 1MM .004 2008 367 1.2MM .031 2010 4863 1.4MM .347* 2014 868 1.6MM .054 2016 1418 1.8MM .078 For more, see Science (2018):
  6. 6. Are We Catching Them All? Allison et al Nature 2016 http://www.nature.com/news/reproducibility-a-tragedy-of-errors-1.19264
  7. 7. Are We Catching Them All? “Overall, 3.8% of published papers contained problematic figures, with at least half exhibiting features suggestive of deliberate manipulation. The prevalence of papers with problematic images has risen markedly during the past decade.”
  8. 8. We Can’t Keep Up • Covering allegations – as opposed to retractions – more than occasionally would be nearly impossible • How often are they wrong? • How do we choose?
  9. 9. Is This A Story? May 31, 2019
  10. 10. Nature, November 26, 2014 What Was A Story in 2014?
  11. 11. Nautilus, May 21, 2015 What Was A Story in 2015?
  12. 12. Undark, May 14, 2018 What Was A Story in 2018?
  13. 13. Medscape, March 26, 2019 What Is A Story in 2019?
  14. 14. The More, The Merrier
  15. 15. What Criteria Do We Use? • Does it involve a prominent researcher? • Was the original research well-covered? • Is there something unique about the reason for retraction? • Are others likely to cover it?
  16. 16. Documents and Public Records Requests • Investigation reports • Correspondence between universities and journals • Correspondence between funding agencies and universities • Emails (seldom) • When should these be public?
  17. 17. The Role of The Sleuths Nick Brown and James Heathers Elisabeth Bik
  18. 18. The Role of Anonymous Tips • Is it verifiable? Are there documents? • PubPeer • Do outside experts agree? • Does the tipster have a good track record? • If so, do motivations matter?
  19. 19. Thank You ivan@retractionwatch.com @ivanoransky http://retractionwatch.com @retractionwatch

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