Background: Rates of manuscript retraction in academic journals are increasing. Papers are retracted because of scientific misconduct or serious error. To date there have been no studies that have examined rates of retraction in nursing and midwifery journals. Design: A systematic review of Journal Citation Report listed nursing science journals. Data sources: The Medline database was searched systematically from January 1980 through July 2017, and www.retractionwatch.com was manually searched for relevant studies that met the inclusion criteria. Review methods: Two researchers undertook title and abstract and full text screening. Data were extracted on the country of the corresponding author, journal title, impact factor, study design, year of retraction, number of citations after retraction, and reason for retraction. Journals retraction index was also calculated.
Results: Twenty-nine retracted papers published in nursing science journals were identified, the first in 2007. This represents 0.029% of all papers published in these journals since 2007. We observed a significant increase in the retraction rate of 0.44 per 10,000 publications per year (95% CI; 0.03–0.84, p =.037). There was a negative association between a journal's retraction index and impact factor with a significant reduction in retraction index of −0.57 for a one-point increase in impact factor (95% CI; −1.05 to −0.09, p =.022). Duplicate publication was the most common reason for retraction (n = 18, 58%). The mean number of citations manuscripts received after retraction was seven, the highest was 52. Most (n = 27, 93.1%) of the retracted papers are still available online (with a watermark indicating they are retracted).
Conclusion: Compared to more established academic disciplines, rates of retraction in nursing and midwifery are low. Findings suggest that unsound research is not being identified and that the checks and balances incumbent in the scientific method are not working. In a clinical discipline, this is concerning and may indicate that research that should have been removed from the evidence base continues to influence nursing and midwifery care.