Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

The Stewart Retractions: A Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis


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Sociology has recently experienced its first large-scale retraction event. Dr. Eric Stewart and his coauthors have retracted five articles from three journals, Social Problems, Criminology, and Law & Society Review. I coauthored one of the retracted articles. The retraction notices are uninformative, stating only that the authors uncovered an unacceptable number of errors in each article. Misinformation about the event abounds. Some of the authors have continued to insist in print that the retracted findings are correct. I analyze both quantitative and qualitative data about what happened, in the articles, among the coauthors, and at the journals. The findings suggest that the five articles were likely fraudulent, several coauthors acted with negligence bordering on complicity after learning about the data irregularities, and the editors violated the ethical standards advanced by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Suggested reforms include requiring data verification by coauthors and editorial adherence to COPE standards.