How to Steal a Million (of H-index Points): Retractions and Ego Networks of Repeat Offenders

Anna Suleymanova, Irina Zangieva


Usually retraction is a one-off event. However, repetitive cases of misconduct aren’t that uncommon: over half of all retracted papers are authored by repeat offenders – scholars that have multiple retracted articles. Retraction is not always the result of a wrongdoing, but the suspicion rises as the number of retracted papers increases. Certain stigma surrounds retraction and those affected by it due to possible institutional sanctions and inability to access the funds. This stigma not only affects the repeat offenders themselves, but also their co-authors and other collaborators. It is not always easy to determine whether the collaborator was not aware of the misconduct, enabled it, or participated in it. The goal of the paper is to analyse the collaboration patterns of repeat offenders in Social Sciences. Database for the study was extracted from Retraction Watch Database (SOC) Sociology in Subject (1996-2019). The database includes 396 papers, 80 of which are authored by 42 repeat offenders. Resulting list of publication titles was used as a search inquiry for Web of Science. Search results were transformed into network and analysed with Pajek, taking into account (a) reasons for retraction and (b) h-index of the researcher.

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