Zombie Science

This article, unfortunately, is not about the science of zombies, but rather science that continues on after it has effectively died. What makes a scientific study dead (and undead)?

The most obvious and definitive way in which a scientific study can be officially pronounced dead is if it is retracted. Scientific research is born into life (to continue this metaphor) when it is published in the peer-reviewed literature. Being retracted from the journal in which it was published is scientific death (or at least it should be).

Retraction watch, which is an excellent resource, cited over 650 retractions in 2016. There has been an overall trend of increasing retractions, up about 10 fold from 2000. The reasons for retraction vary – about 11% are for fabrication or falsification of data, 17% for self-plagiarism, 16% for plagiarism, 28% for honest errors, and 11% for irreproducible results. The majority of retractions come

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