Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Plant biologist loses three papers that made up a duplication ring

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A biologist in India has lost three papers that appear to have been part of a network of duplications.

One paper published in 2012 was retracted — at the researcher’s request — for copying from a 2010 paper of his. In turn, both papers were duplicated in a paper that was published in 2016, and retracted a few months later. That 2016 paper borrowed from another paper published last year, which was quickly retracted after we contacted the journal.

These papers — by Dilip Kumar Das, listed at T. M. Bhagalpur University in India — were flagged in March by a PubPeer commenter.

In December, Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC) retracted Das’s 2012 paper; here’s the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted. The retraction was undertaken at the request of Dr. Das, the corresponding author of this paper, as it was found that this paper included duplicated information already published in Current Trends in Biotechnology and Pharmacy (2010), 820–833, by the same corresponding author, and data that did not correspond to the species studied in this publication.

Das co-authored “Expression of a rice chitinase gene enhances antifungal response in transgenic litchi (cv. Bedana)” with A. Rahman, also at T. M. Bhagalpur University. It’s been cited five times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, formerly part of Thomson Reuters.

That 2012 paper — and the 2010 paper it duplicated from — were both used to generate another paper published in March 2016. It was retracted only a few months later, in July.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Expression of a bacterial chitinase (ChiB) gene enhances resistance against E. polygoni induced powdery mildew disease in the transgenic Black gram (Vigna mungo L.),” issued by Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants (PMBP):

The editors retract this article published at Online First, due to the author’s unethical inclusion of all the figures and tables, as well as paraphrased text from his previously published research articles listed below:

1. Das, Dilip Kumar, Mrinalini Bhagat, and Sangeeta Shree. “Agrobacterium Mediated Transformation of Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper with Cry1Ac Gene for Insect Resistance.” American Journal of Plant Sciences 7.02 (2016): 316.

2. Das, Dilip K., N. Shiva Prakash, and Neera Bhalla-Sarin. “An efficient regeneration system of black gram (Vigna mungo L.) through organogenesis.” Plant Science 134.2 (1998): 199-206.

3. Das, Dilip K., et al. “Improved method of regeneration of black gram (Vigna mungo L.) through liquid culture.” In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant 38.5 (2002): 456-459.

4. Das, D. K., and A. Rahman. “Expression of a rice chitinase gene enhances antifungal response in transgenic litchi (cv. Bedana).” Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture (PCTOC) 109.2 (2012): 315-325.

5. Das, D. K., and A. Rahman. “Expression of a rice chitinase gene (ChiB) enhances antifungal response in transgenic litchi (cv. Bedana).” Current Trends in Biotechnology and Pharmacy 4.3 (2010): 820-833.

The editors regret that this scientific misconduct escaped the evaluation processes of the journal and thank the complainants and pubpeer for bringing it to their notice. The reviewers of the manuscript and the employer of the author have been alerted of the misconduct.

The PubPeer commenter alleged that a third paper by Das, “Agrobacterium Mediated Transformation of Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper with Cry1Ac Gene for Insect Resistance,” listed first in the above notice, contains some of the same material duplicated in the PMBP paper. Specifically, the commenter alleged that it also borrows a figure from the third paper listed in the above notice.

We emailed the American Journal of Plant Sciences about the paper, and heard from editorial assistant Joy Deng:

Plagiarism can’t be tolerated in our publisher…

Shortly thereafter, the paper was pulled with a check-list style retraction notice, which says the retraction was prompted by the journal and all of the authors. The reason given for the retraction is plagiarism; under “author’s conduct,” the boxed marked “honest error” is checked. There is a short amount of text at the end, which notes:

The paper does not meet the standards of “American Journal of Plant Sciences”. This article has been retracted to straighten the academic record.

The journal is published by Scientific Research Publishing, which was on the now-defunct list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers compiled by Jeffrey Beall.

We’ve reached out to Das, as well as the editors of PCTOC and PMBP.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen 

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