4

Yesterday, I asked a question in Academia.SE: Are there any scientific papers that were retracted by the publisher due to the reader comments?

Disclaimer: I am not racist, and I am fully aware that this paper was written with crooked intentions. I do not approve the motivation of the authors who published this study.

With this said, I genuinely wondered whether there are any other publications that were retracted with the same official reason:

because of the sources cited within the article, and critical comments from readers.

Wrzlprmft stated in the comments:

I am closing this question because:

  1. Taken literally, it asks for a list with no best answer.
  2. The next best question is whether this is commonly accepted practice, however, until the retraction notice is published, it is not clear what this is.
  3. Even then, the question must outline clear criteria on the answers to avoid being overrun with people sharing their opinion on the retraction.

So, I looked up some questions. Those are the ones I immediately found when I typed "are there" in the search box:

Which tells me that (1) is not really a reason to close a question.

Also, (2) is plain wrong, because in the very same link I have posted, there is official retraction announcement, and I have written that verbatim in the question.

As for (3), I am willing to give examples from the top questions in Academia.SE:

None of those questions meet the criterion: “[T]he question must outline clear criteria on the answers to avoid being overrun with people sharing their opinion.”

Bryan Krauses comments encouraged me to check some questions that are answered by the users who voted to close my question for opinion-based:

If the above questions are not opinion-based, I firmly believe that my question is very much not opinion based.


I asked the question over a simple debate with my colleagues. They claimed that there are many papers retracted without any solid reason, I claimed that there should be at least one clear reason or the follow-up actions should be taken.

By follow-up actions I mean:

  1. Re-evaluation of all the publications that took the approval of the same reviewers and editors.
  2. If the sources used are not credible (as in the official notice), then the papers those are based on those resources, in which 15 of them are published by Elsevier, should also be retracted.
  3. It should be clearly stated that why are the resources not credible, and how was it determined after eight whole years. Because the paper in question is a survey paper, and one cannot claim it was falsified data because the data they provide were already published many years ago.

Facts:

  1. I have formed my question very well, and clear.
  2. This is a genuine question, stated out of curiosity, without any provocation or comments on the matter.
  3. The answer to my question can be one example, or many examples. There is absolutely no restriction in the rules of the site which states that I cannot ask a question of which answers can be many.
  4. None of the reasons that were stated as the reasons for closing are accurate (see above).

My question:
Why was my question voted to close, and was closed by one of the moderators? Has Academia SE become a place where we cannot even ask questions due to current political situations?

| |
  • Personally, I thought it sounded like you were intending to criticize the retraction, particularly by mentioning the "right practice" which implies that this was the wrong one, and later in comments that seemed to indicate little understanding of why a paper would be retracted for these reasons. If instead you had the goals mentioned here, that was not at all clear. It also seems like you might have been asking a bit of an XY question that isn't going to elicit answers to address the actual debate you had. – Bryan Krause Jun 22 at 22:46
  • 1
    @BryanKrause Duly noted. However, I would still argue that if my question implies that the practice is the wrong one, then one of the answers could be "you are wrong about your assumptions." Still, I don't believe that this is a reason to close the question. If needed, I can sill provide many examples of similar questions which assume false things. – padawan Jun 22 at 22:51
  • 5
    There are lots of questions that are left open that shouldn't be, based on one of the 'bad subjective' cases at academia.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask Sometimes they just fall through the cracks, other times the types of questions allowed fluctuates over time. – Bryan Krause Jun 22 at 22:56
  • @BryanKrause I agree, there are many questions that got slipped out of attention. But those questions are not cars crossed through a DUI. They don't just go away. They are still there. They have answers, and even accepted answers. But no action taken against them. – padawan Jun 23 at 1:25
  • 1
    It may interest you that the retraction notice has now been issued. – Wrzlprmft Jul 4 at 8:03
  • @Wrzlprmft Thanks for the notice! – padawan Jul 5 at 8:06
3

I voted to close the question because it did not have internal logical consistency.

First you quoted:

This retraction comes after a thorough review of the published article, the sources cited within the article, and critical comments from readers.

Then you said:

I wonder whether there are other examples which the publisher retracts an article because of the sources cited within the article, and critical comments from readers.

The quote you gave did not include a retraction reason. The quote is only a statement of what occurred. The logical inconsistency is because you changed "comes after" to "because."

Therefore, I voted to close as unclear. In fact, the question was sufficiently unclear that I am unsure if it is opinion-based. It is also possible that it is a shopping question.

People often select the wrong close reason.

| |
-2
  1. My first point is about taking your question (“[Are there] other examples which the publisher retracts an article because of […]”) literally. This is admittedly not the best approach, but it’s one which you have to expect others to take when answering and which is easy: If the literal question is already clear and without any problems, that prevents a lot of problems right from the start and we do not have to go much further (except for bewaring of the XY problem). Unfortunately, your literal question has the problems I described: It asks for a list and presumably a lot of answers will be equal and going by your introduction, some answers won’t satisfy you, e.g., if we provided you with an article that has been retracted because half of the citations point to nowhere.

    Now, while the literal approach highlights some issues with your question, I do not think this is how you wanted your question to be understood, which brings us to the next point.

    So, I looked up some questions. Those are the ones I immediately found when I typed "are there" in the search box:
    […]

    Some of these questions are indeed problematic given our current rules and what we know to work well and I closed the first one for that reason. If my vote didn’t unilaterally close, I would also close the last one; feel free to cast a close vote if you agree. Others have not been answered with a list of items because they were not taken literally, which brings us again to the next point. In general, there are some old questions which should be closed but aren’t. If you stumble upon them, please flag or vote to close.

  2. Also, (2) is plain wrong, because in the very same link I have posted, there is official retraction announcement […]

    Said retraction announcement ends with:

    The retraction notice is currently being finalized and will appear in the journal imminently.

    My understanding of this is that we can expect a detailed elaboration of the retraction in the next weeks. At the time I posted this answer, the article in question showed no sign of the retraction. Now, two weeks later, it does and this notice is clearly different from what you linked.

    While questions about the rationale of the journal may be appropriate on this site, we can only speculate about this rationale from the brief outline given in the announcement. I do not think any good can come from this kind of speculation.

  3. None of those questions meet the criterion "the question must outline clear criteria on the answers to avoid being overrun with people sharing their opinion."

    Here, the topic of your question indeed is relevant as it makes it considerably more likely that it will escalate into a debate about the retraction itself, attract trolls and racists, and cause other problems. The comments your question attracted so far already give a taste of this. This is not primarily your fault, but good intentions do not suffice to prevent this. A good (but not perfect) way to avoid such problems is to be as specific as possible about the answers you want (again bewaring of the XY problem) and thus excluding pure opinions, etc.

    So: Yes, I am putting your question under higher scrutiny, but not to censor the topic but to ensure that it stays within our guidelines and to be able to have questions and answers about it without attracting trouble.

In general, closing a question is about avoiding answers and thus – strictly speaking – it is not about the way the question is phrased or intended but about the answers we expect it to receive. Often this does not make a difference, but here it does: I closed your question because it bears a high risk to attract a problematic collection of answers in its current state for several reasons.


You also revealed your motivation (the Y to the X, if you so wish):

I asked the question over a simple debate with my colleagues. They claimed that there are many papers retracted without any solid reason, I claimed that there should be at least one clear reason or the follow-up actions should be taken. By follow-up actions I mean […]

There are many opinion-based aspects about this: What exactly constitutes the solid reason your colleagues talk about? You on the other hand talk about what should be done. We do not answer how the world should be here, we can only discuss how it is. Yes, we have , but that should always be with respect to either generally accepted standards (e.g., on plagiarism), a specified authority (e.g., COPE), or at least solicit a neutral assessment of the ethical dilemmas.

| |
  • "In general, closing a question is about avoiding answers" I'd really prefer if it were about making it easy to find questions the community is good at answering, by getting rid of bad questions. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 23 at 10:26
  • @AnonymousPhysicist: I do not see much of a contradiction here. Broadly speaking, if the community can reasonably answer a question, there usually are no problems with the answers, and thus answers do not need to be avoided. – Wrzlprmft Jun 23 at 14:11
  • 5
    @AnonymousPhysicist I think many people, including veteran users of the sites, forget that question closure is a temporary state when no positive answers have yet been posted. It allows for the question to be edited and reopened in a way that will attract good answers, and prevents someone from providing an answer in the meantime that becomes invalidated by future edits to move the question within site guidelines. The purpose of "close" is to prevent people from making effort to answer a question that will either be changed or removed in the future. – Bryan Krause Jun 23 at 16:25
  • 1
    Calling any question an XY problem is not good - it's for the asker to determine if the answer doesn't match his or her needs, not the answerer or anyone else. – Allure Jul 6 at 0:42
  • 1
    @Allure: In general, that’s utopic and dangerous. Answering the Y of an XY problem often is harmful to the asker as it pushes them further down a dead end of thinking. In particular on a “soft-topic” site like this, context matters and we must not ignore it. Moreover, if askers could identify the specific question they need to ask, they would have enough knowledge that they would not need to ask in the first place. This particular case is a bit different: If you ignore context, we can only answer the literal question, which brings us to Point 1 and all its problems. – Wrzlprmft Jul 6 at 7:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .