Occasionally I encounter papers in which the authors expend significant effort to either:

  • prove an hypothesis that I know to be false;
  • promote a new theory that I know to be fundamentally flawed.

To do this, the authors use methods such as forging experimental results, misinterpreting results or misinterpreting cited references.

As I know that the views presented in the paper are false, I can deduce from the paper that the author must have favored promoting their views over correctness. However someone less educated in the topic might not be aware of this and base their work on this paper as they consider the presented views to be scientifically proven.

Is there a commonly accepted method to flag such a paper, so that future readers will be aware that the presented views are forged and false?

  • 2
    How would you know said hypothesis to be false? Is it something you would necessarily read in some other paper somewhere?
    – Shion
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 2:38
  • The forum matters. Are these papers appearing in otherwise good-quality journals whose peer review has had a momentary lapse, or in bad journals that everyone knows are crap? Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


If you believe there are significant problems with an existing manuscript, then you should present these issues to the journal in which the "offending" articles appear. The format this response should take depends upon the nature of the problem.

  • If the issue is in fact "forging experimental results," then the paper deserves to be retracted. However, this is a difficult allegation to prove, and you would need to have strong justification (not evidence, per se) backing up your allegations.

  • However, if the issue is misinterpretations of results or previous literature, this does not quite rise to the level of "academic dishonesty" as forging results. It is not necessarily correct to have the paper retracted. Instead, you should consider writing a "comment" or "letter to the editor" or even a longer paper in response to the problems in the earlier work.

Note, however, that if the paper has appeared in a reputable journal, it has gone through some sort of peer review process. As a consequence of this, it will be necessary to present a more "airtight" argument than if the paper merely appears in a repository such as arXiv. In the latter case, however, then there's probably not much you can do beyond the aforementioned "response article," as the paper has not been published, and thus retraction depends on the author "self-retracting" the work.

  • If the author published their paper with malicious intent, then they will not self-retract the work.
    – bcmpinc
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 19:56
  • That was my point.
    – aeismail
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 20:44

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