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Why are papers in privately questioned papers older than publicly questioned papers?

"There was a trend toward papers in the private group being slightly older, although the reasons for this are not fully understood."

Might this be due to the papers in the private group containing a higher proportion available free of charge? This point could be relatively easily tested.

Private individuals noticing problematic data might do this away from any institutional resources. Journals tend to make papers available free of charge a year or two after publication. Also, private individuals complaining to journals might feel more confident that there was scientific misconduct if there was a history of problematic data.

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As mentioned in the text, this was a non-statistically significant trend, so there may be limited worth in speculating on the underlying reasons. If it is real, then the two things you propose (older papers more likely free for non-affiliated academics, and longer background history) might be reasonable causes for different levels of action on a given group of papers of a certain age. What's not clear is why either of those factors should apply in a weighted manner to either the public or the private data set. It's certainly something I can look into, although again as with the other question below, each paper would have to be scored individually for OA status at the time of its reporting, and such an analysis would be quite laborious.

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