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Marc Hauser, whose research has been retracted and scrutinized, serves as a recent example of science media taking a closer look at the scientific process. Photo taken from the Harvard Gazette. By Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office.

How often do retracted studies make headlines?

Think about it.

I can only recall a handful of studies that circled back after they were championed as new findings months earlier. Most recently, Marc Hauser‘s primate cognition work for the journal Science comes to mind. After being called out for fraudulent research and fudged data, Hauser’s study was retracted. His previous findings began to be questioned as well.

Yet this week Science re-released the results of his work, which were replicated from the original 2007 study in question. He and his colleagues have provided video to ensure the soundness of their results.

But setting the record straight doesn’t do much for Hauser’s already tarnished reputation. Which leads me to the question: Why don’t we hear more about retractions for other research? Visibility in the most prestigious journals could have something to do with it. Intentional deceptioin versus accidental errors with data matter too. But I find this somewhat startling, especially considering John Ioannidis’ suggestion that much of medical research is flawed and even outright wrong.

This question — along with how embargoes and the Ingelfinger Rule shape the production of science news — will be covered in a research paper I’m working on. Thankfully, I’ve had the help of two science writers with a keen eye for these issues.

Ivan Oransky, who leads the blog Embargo Watch and co-authors the blog Retraction Watch, is definitely a leader to follow. I was fortunate enough to catch lunch with him, my adviser and a few colleagues last fall. John Rennie has also shared his ideas about why he thinks journalists should go above and beyond the embargo system to provide the public with diverse science news, not copy similar to press releases.

I plan to flesh out more of these ideas on this blog after I finish my paper.

But in the meantime, I want to hear from you. Which studies (if any) have you heard/read about because they’ve been retracted? Do you think the lack of coverage misleads public perception of science and how it works?

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About Me

Marianne is a science communicator working in Madison, Wis.

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