Holy Chutzpah, Batman! A team of researchers in India has retracted their 2012 paper in PLoS One on botulinum toxin for plagiarism — while blaming the journal for failing to use its “soft wares” to catch the plagiarism.
The article, “Small-Molecule Quinolinol Inhibitor Identified Provides Protection against BoNT/A in Mice,” was written by a group from the Defence Research and Development Establishment, in Madhya Pradesh.
According to the retraction notice:
It has been brought to the attention of the PLOS ONE editors that substantial parts of the text in this article were appropriated from text in the following publications:
Identification and biochemical characterization of small-molecule inhibitors of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxin serotype A.
Roxas-Duncan V, Enyedy I, Montgomery VA, Eccard VS, Carrington MA, Lai H, Gul N, Yang DC, Smith LA.
Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2009 Aug;53(8):3478-86
Eubanks LM, Hixon MS, Jin W, Hong S, Clancy CM, et al. (2007) An in vitro and in vivo disconnect uncovered through high-throughput identification of botulinum neurotoxin A antagonists. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA104: 2602–2607.
PLOS ONE therefore retracts this article due to the identified case of plagiarism. PLOS ONE apologizes to the authors of the publications above and to the readers.
The corresponding author, Ram Kumar Dhaked, took to the journal’s website to comment on the retraction. In a Sept. 6, 2013, post, titled “The response of the editors to the paper,” he wrote:
I have discussed your response with a Senior Editor. We appreciate that the data reported in the PLOS ONE article are original, and there have been no allegations about misattribution of data., however, the overlap in text with that from previous publications is substantial, and you have acknowledged that te [ends here]
A week later, Dhaked wrote:
There was some text overlapping in the article especially in introduction. That was went un-noticed by us. However, PLOS ONE could have checked for the overlap as they have soft wares etc. The editorial board has written to us that Data is original and there is no allegation of results attribution. This is very unfortunate.
Unfortunate indeed. Because the authors might be looking at more than embarrassment. Here’s their funding statement, which lists U.S. government support:
National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health, USA acknowledged for providing chemicals bearing NSC prefix. Ms. Padma Singh is a JRF working in ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) scheme (Ref No: 3/1/3/JRF-2008/MPD-78, 31500). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.