Ethics Guidelines  >  Retractions and Expressions of Concern

Wiley's Policy for Handling Retractions and Expressions of Concern


Circumstances under which Wiley will retract an article
Wiley is committed to playing its part in maintaining the integrity of the scholarly record, therefore on occasion, it is necessary to retract articles. Articles may be retracted if:

  • There is major scientific error which would invalidate the conclusions of the article, for example where there is clear evidence that findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error).
  • Where the findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper cross-referencing, permission or justification (i.e. cases of redundant publication).
  • Where there are ethical issues such as plagiarism (appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit including those obtained through confidential review of others' manuscripts) or inappropriate authorship (e.g., "guest" authorship; see COPE discussion document 'What constitutes authorship?').
  • Where unethical research has been reported.

Wiley's retraction process
In order to ensure that retractions are handled according to industry best practice, and in accordance with COPE guidelines, Wiley adopts the following retraction process:

  1. An article requiring potential retraction is brought to the attention of the journal editor.
  2. The journal editor should follow the step-by-step guidelines according to the COPE flowcharts (including evaluating a response from the author of the article in question).
  3. Before any action is taken, the editor's findings should be sent to Wiley's Intellectual Property Group for review. The purpose of this step is to ensure a consistent approach in accordance with industry best practice.
  4. The final decision as to whether to retract is then communicated to the author and, if necessary, any other relevant bodies, such as the author's institution on occasion.
  5. The retraction statement is then posted online and published in the next available issue of the journal (see below for more details of this step).

Complaints procedure
To challenge to a retraction or a related issue, Wiley’s procedure is as follows:

  1. The complaint may be submitted via the journal editor or directly to Wiley at
  2. An independent investigation is then carried out by at least two representatives from Wiley’s Intellectual Property Group (IPG), one of whom must be legally qualified.
  3. The investigation involves reviewing all correspondence relating to the case in question and, if necessary, obtaining further written responses to queries from the parties involved.
  4. The purpose of the investigation is to establish that correct procedures have been followed, that decisions have been reached based on academic criteria, that personal prejudice or bias of some kind has not influenced the outcome, and that appropriate sanctions have been applied where relevant.
  5. The investigatory panel will then submit its findings to IPG for further review before any onward communications to the appropriate parties.
  6. Complainants may choose to take their complaint to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Process for issuing a retraction statement
Where the decision is taken to retract and the article to be retracted is the Version of Record (i.e. it has been published in Early View or within an issue of a journal), Wiley recommends issuing a retraction statement which should be published separately but should be linked to the article being retracted. A "retracted" watermark should also be added to the article; however the article as first published should be retained online in order to maintain the scientific record. Issuing a retraction statement will mean the following:

  1. The retraction will appear on a numbered page in a prominent section of the journal;
  2. The retraction will be listed in the contents page and the title of the original article will be included in its heading;
  3. The text of the retraction should explain why the article is being retracted; and
  4. The statement of retraction and the original article must be clearly linked in the electronic database so that the retraction will always be apparent to anyone who comes across the original article.

Circumstances under which an article may be deleted
It is Wiley's policy to strongly discourage withdrawal of the Version of Record in line with the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers guidelines on retractions and preservation of the objective record of science. Therefore deletion of the Version of Record is rare and Wiley will only consider it in the following limited circumstances:

  • Where there has been a violation of the privacy of a research subject;
  • Where there are errors to which a member of the general public might be exposed and if followed or adopted, would pose a significant risk to health; or
  • Where a clearly defamatory comment has been made about others in the relevant field or about their work.
  • Where an Accepted Article (which represents an early version of an article) is to be retracted, because for example it contains errors, has been accidentally submitted twice or infringes a professional ethical code of some type, it may be deleted. This is because, whilst an Accepted Article will have been allocated a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), it does not constitute the Version of Record as it will not yet have been formally published and does not yet carry complete bibliographic information.

Even in the above circumstances, bibliographic information about the deleted article should be retained for the scientific record, and an explanation given, however brief, about the circumstances of its removal.

Expressions of Concern

Journal editors may consider issuing an Expression of Concern if they have well-founded concerns and feel that readers should be made aware of potentially misleading information contained in an article. However, Expressions of Concern should only be issued if an investigation into the problems relating to the article has proved inconclusive, and if there remain strong indicators that the concerns are valid. See COPE case 17-02 Data manipulation and institute's internal review.

On very rare occasions, an Expression of Concern may be issued while an investigation is underway but a judgement will not be available for a considerable time. However, in such cases there must be well-founded grounds to suggest that the concerns are valid.

In all cases, editors should be aware that an Expression of Concern carries the same risks to a researcher's reputation as a retraction, and it is often preferable to wait to publish a retraction until a definitive judgement has been achieved by an independent investigation. See COPE case 15-10 Handling self-admissions of fraud.