Commenter jmz4 made a fascinating comment on a prior post:
It is not the journals responsibility to mete out retractions as a form of punishment(&). Only someone that buys into papers as career accolades would accept that. The journal is there to disseminate accurate scientific information. If the journal has evidence that, despite the complaint, this information is accurate,(%) then it *absolutely* should take that into account when deciding to keep a paper out there.
(&) Otherwise we would retract papers from leches and embezzlers. We don't.
That prior post was focused on data fraud, but this set of comments suggest something a little broader.
I.e., that fact are facts and it doesn't matter how we have obtained them.
This, of course, brings up the little nagging matter of the treatment of research subjects. As you are mostly aware, Dear Readers, the conduct of biomedical experimentation that involves human or nonhuman animal subjects requires an approval process. Boards of people external to the immediate interests of the laboratory in question must review research protocols in advance and approve the use of human (Institutional Review Board; IRB) or nonhuman animal (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee; IACUC) subjects.
The vast majority (ok, all) journals of my acquaintance require authors to assert that they have indeed conducted their research under approvals provided by IRB or IACUC as appropriate.
So what happens when and if it is determined that experiments have been conducted outside of IRB or IACUC approval?
The position expressed by jmz4 is that it shouldn't matter. The facts are as they are, the data have been collected so too bad, nothing to be done here. We may tut-tut quietly but the papers should not be retracted.
I say this is outrageous and nonsense. Of course we should apply punitive sanctions, including retracting the paper in question, if anyone is caught trying to publish research that was not collected under proper ethical approvals and procedures.
In making this decision, the evidence for whether the conclusions are likely to be correct or incorrect plays no role. The journal should retract the paper to remove the rewards and motivations for operating outside of the rules. Absolutely. Publishers are an integral part of the integrity of science.
The idea that journals are just there to report the facts as they become known is dangerous and wrong.