A researcher whose work on the use of nanomaterials has been heavily scrutinized on PubPeer — with one critic alleging a paper contained “obviously fabricated” images — has lost eight papers. [Editor’s note: See update below.]
The eight articles — seven from Biosensors and Bioelectronics and one from Analytica Chimica Acta, both published by Elsevier — all cite issues related to duplications, and conclude with some version of the following:
This problem with the data casts doubt on all the data, and accordingly also the conclusions based on that data, in this publication.
All papers have the same corresponding author — Rashmi Madhuri at the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines). We’ve contacted Madhuri, but haven’t heard back.
We first covered Madhuri’s work last year, after a user on PubPeerand others on Twitter accused one of her papers (which was eventually retracted) of containing clear duplications. The paper had been corrected a few months prior, in which one scientist alleges the authors replaced “an obviously fabricated” figure with a “slightly better photo-shopped one.” Earlier this year, Madhuri issued a puzzling correction to a 2015 paper, in which the text of the correction doesn’t match the changes to the article.
All of the latest retractions were requested by the editors of the two journals. Here’s a sample notice for “Imprinted ZnO nanostructure-based electrochemical sensing of calcitonin: A clinical marker for medullary thyroid carcinoma” which, like the others, cites issues with duplications:
This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor following concerns raised by various readers.
The article reports different electron micrographs for different sample preparations, but some images are of different areas from the same sample. Figure 4E is a magnified section of Figure 4C, and the images are identical as demonstrated by overlapping the images and adjusting for magnification scale.
The article reports EDX spectra in Figure 5C and Figure 5D for samples that are reported as different. An overlay of the spectra indicate they are identical in magnitude and in the random fluctuations of noise except in the specific zones where the signal was expected to vary.
These problems with the data presented cast doubt on all the data, and accordingly also the conclusions based on that data, in this publication.
Two of the retracted papers appeared in a special issue of Biosensors and Biomaterials — and both include the editor of that issue(Ashutosh Tiwari) as a co-author. Those papers are:
- “Graphene quantum dots decorated CdS doped graphene oxide sheets in dual action mode: As initiator and platform for designing of nimesulide imprinted polymer,” published March 2017, cited 5 times. Here’s the PubPeer discussion.
- “Single cell imprinting on the surface of Ag–ZnO bimetallic nanoparticle modified graphene oxide sheets for targeted detection, removal and photothermal killing of E. Coli,” published March 2017, cited 5 times. Here’s the PubPeer discussion.
Isn’t there a clear conflict of interest if the editor of an article is also an author? Not just in terms of compromising the peer-review process, but who would handle the expression of concern that the multitude of examples of image and data duplication raised here generates?
Last year, we spoke with Madhuri briefly by phone regarding the criticisms of the now-retracted paper; she told us she didn’t think she knew the person who had posted concerns about the paper on PubPeer, and then the line was disconnected.
The four other retracted papers are:
- “A fluorescent molecularly-imprinted polymer gate with temperature and pH as inputs for detection of alpha-fetoprotein,” published April 2016, cited 21 times. (The PubPeer discussion.)
- “Bimetallic magnetic nanoparticle as a new platform for fabrication of pyridoxine and pyridoxal-5′-phosphate imprinted polymer modified high throughput electrochemical sensor,” published November 2015, cited 13 times. (The PubPeer discussion.)
- “An imprinted Ag@CdS core shell nanoparticle based optical-electrochemical dual probe for trace level recognition of ferritin,” published January 2015, cited 22 times. (The PubPeer discussion.)
- “Multifunctional magnetic reduced graphene oxide dendrites: Synthesis, characterization and their applications,” published June 2015, cited 28 times.
- “Anisotropic (spherical/hexagon/cube) silver nanoparticle embedded magnetic carbon nanosphere as platform for designing of tramadol imprinted polymer,” published November 2017, cited two times.
Hat tip: Smut Clyde
Editor’s note, April 25 2018, 13:46 UTC: Soon after this post appeared, we discovered two more retractions in Biosensors and Bioelectronics. The post has been updated to reflect the latest count.