Corrections and retractions

Topic lead: Andrea Chiarelli, Clarissa F. D. Carneiro, Alex Mendonça
Last updated: 05/06/2023

Once an article has been published, it is referred to as the version of record. This is understood to be a reliable and complete version of the article, which others can cite and build upon. If an author identifies an error or inaccuracy in the version of record, this can be addressed through a correction, an expression of concern, a retraction or, more rarely, a removal.

A published article is referred to as the version of record. This is intended as the final version of the article after peer review and is meant as a permanent entry in the scholarly record. Formally speaking, the version of record includes the article itself, the abstract, any references, all images and tables and supplementary materials, if any. The key expectation is that the version of record remains unchanged in time, as this is what other researchers may cite or build upon. There are, however, some cases where it may be appropriate to issue a correction, an expression of concern, a retraction or, more rarely, a removal. The way a journal manages these occurrences must be clearly and transparently described.


A correction is issued when errors or omissions affect how the article is interpreted, but the integrity of the findings remains unaltered. Examples where this is appropriate may include missing information (e.g. on funding or competing interests) or mislabelling of figures, tables or other forms of data.

Expressions of concerns

An expression of concern is considered when major doubts about an article have emerged, for example in terms of research or publication misconduct. It serves as a warning to readers that the findings reported in the article may not be reliable and that care should be taken in reusing or building on them.

Where investigations of the concerns raised provide conclusive evidence of misconduct or serious issues, corrections or retractions typically follow the expression of concern. However, the expression of concern may remain as is if investigations are inconclusive or it is difficult or impossible to investigate the issues identified (e.g. limited cooperation from authors and/or their institutions).


Retractions are issued when major errors in any part of the article make the discussion or conclusions unreliable, or where severe cases of misconduct have taken place. Examples of misconduct that can easily lead to retractions include plagiarism, ghost authorship, fraudulent authorship or manipulation of the peer review process.

Importantly, retractions may arise from honest errors, too, for example issues with analysis or measurement errors that have led to incorrect results. It should be noted that retractions are not appropriate if a correction is sufficient to address the issues under consideration.


Removals are issued in very rare circumstances, where an issue cannot be resolved via any of the above mechanisms. For example, an article may be removed because of legal reasons or because of the infringement of legal rights. Similarly, articles may be removed if they include materials that pose risks to study participants or protected animal or plant species.

Communicating concerns or changes to the Version of Record

When corrections, expressions of concern, retractions or removals take place, they need to be clearly communicated to readers. Any of these actions must be promptly flagged on the original article’s webpage, to warn readers and minimise harmful effects. The text describing a correction, an expression of concern, a retraction or a removal on the journal’s website should use neutral and objective language, avoiding inflammatory wording and focusing on facts.

Furthermore, article metadata should be updated and reindexed to reflect changes such as retraction or removal. Crossmark is a helpful way to reflect editorially significant decisions: Crossmark members commit to informing Crossref of updates such as corrections or retractions, as well as optionally providing additional metadata about editorial procedures and practices. In all cases, article metadata should be retained (e.g. title, authors), to ensure the integrity of the scholarly record.

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