When a paper is retracted, questions can arise about the data that led to the study in the first place.

But the retraction of the controversial COVID-19 paper “Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine with or without a Macrolide for Treatment of COVID-19: A Multinational Registry Analysis” has sparked a whole new set of questions. The paper had been widely cited, but after being retracted in July 2020 due to “serious concerns about the veracity” of its data, now researchers around the world are tracking how these new citations are being used.

Introduction to Retracted COVID-19 Paper and Citation Impact

The paper in question was published on May 22, 2020 and retracted on July 22, 2020, with The Lancet publishing a notice on their website saying the article hosted on their website had been retracted.

The paper was widely covered in both traditional and digital media, and was cited and discussed in a variety of scientific forums.

The study had been cited 2,454 times as of July 18, six days before its retraction, according to Google Scholar. Now, as the paper has been retracted and its accuracy in question, analysts around the world are monitoring the impact of the retracted paper’s citations.

Background of Retracted COVID-19 Paper and Its Impact on Scientific Research

The paper in question had been authored by dozens of co-authors from institutions around the world, including the Department of Medicine at Zhejiang University College of Medicine, a unit of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, the University of Milano-Bicocca, Garante della Sanità della Regione Sardegna and many other prestigious institutions.

The paper’s conclusions led to a surge of media attention as it advocated the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two drugs primarily used to treat malaria and other complications, despite lingering questions about its efficacy.

Questions about the reliability of the citation’s data quickly emerged. Eventually, The Lancet’s editors “strongly urge” readers to stop citing the paper due to “serious doubt about the veracity of its data.”

Analysis of Retracted COVID-19 Paper Citations

Since the retraction, professional academic and scientific networks, media outlets and web companies have been carefully monitoring how the retracted paper’s citations are used.

The analysis of the retracted paper’s citations has shed light on the importance of accuracy in scientific publishing. For example, a recent ScienceDaily article notes that “the case demonstrates the power and importance of open and accurate scientific research information, in terms of how it is used in real-world settings.”

Citation Analysis Database

To better understand the impact of the retracted paper’s citations, researchers have created an online database to track their usage by other researchers and institutions.

The database is the Retracted Citations and Their Impact Database, or RCID. It is a joint project of the publishers and journal editors Elsevier, JAMA Network and the BMJ, that aims to provide “comprehensive data on retracted articles and their citation impacts.”

The database can be used to monitor the use of citations from retracted papers and alert researchers when citations from questionable sources are used. The database also aims to be a tool that can be used to investigate misconduct and fraud in the scientific literature.

Monitoring Misinformation and Disinformation

In addition to analyzing the usage of retracted paper citations, some researchers have been using the citations to monitor how misinformation and disinformation is spread across the internet.

For example, The Economist has performed an analysis of how the retracted paper is being cited, both in more ‘mainstream’ outlets as well as more dubious channels. It found that in the two weeks after the study was retracted, there were only six citations of it in mainstream news sources. However, in fringe channels – conspiracy sites, YouTube channels, Russia Today and other outlets of dubious reputations – there were 72 citations of the retracted paper.

Given the importance of accurate data when it comes to public health, the analysis underscores the need for debunking and fact-checking to combat misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19.

The retraction of the controversial COVID-19 paper has raised many questions about the reliability of scientific data and how it is used. This case serves as a warning about the importance of accurate data in scientific publishing, and how easily disinformation can spread online.

Since the retraction, a variety of analyses have been conducted on the retracted paper’s citations, and a database has been created to monitor their usage. This serves as an important reminder of the need to remember the importance of accurate data when using citations in scientific writing, and of the need to actively combat both misinformation and disinformation related to public health emergencies.