Food fight: Animal nutrition author disputes two retractions

LSA pair of animal nutrition researchers in India have now had a second paper on the nutritional value of a fungal treatment for wheat straw retracted, and one of the authors is very unhappy about it.

M.S. Mahesh of the National Dairy Research Institute at Deemed University claims a co-author issued “abusive letters” to an editor of the journal where the first paper was retracted (which said co-author denies), and that editors responsible for the second retraction removed the paper “unscientifically and unethically.”

The second paper, in Livestock Science, describes the treatment of wheat straw, a wheat by-product, with a fungus in an effort to improve the nutritional worth of the straw. It has a similar title, subject, and conclusions to those of a 2013 paper from the journal Tropical Animal Health and Production, which was retracted because the authors “had no permission to use the data presented in the Table 1.”

We described that earlier retraction from TAHP, and the similarity with this most recently retracted paper, in a post from early last year.

Here is the LS retraction notice for “Nutritional evaluation of wheat straw treated with white-rot fungus Crinipellis sp. RCK-SC in Sahiwal calves”:

This article has been withdrawn at the request of the author(s) and/or editor. The Publisher apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause. The full Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal can be found at

Mahesh, the corresponding author of both papers, sent us this account of the two retractions:

These experiments were actually conducted at the ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, India and submitted as a Master’s thesis to this Deemed University by myself in 2012-13 and approved by the institute. Faculty from the University of Delhi (UD) namely Prof. Dr R.C. Kuhad and team had supplied wheat straw (not grains, unlike in the title of Retraction Watch!) treated with two fungal strains (Crinipellis sp. 5 days treatment, i.e., TAHP paper and Crinipellis sp. RCK-SC 10 days treatment, i.e., LS paper).

After online publication of TAHP paper, Prof. Dr R.C. Kuhad urged for immediate retraction of the paper abusing our data by using worst possible words and ultimately succeeded with the publisher to prove that we had no permission to publish data of Table 1 leading to retraction. In fact, as a part of the study, these data were provided by him only, for which his name appeared in the paper as an author. Thanks to the Editor-in-Chief of TAHP Prof. Dr Leslie J. Harrison and Dr Lars Koerner (publisher, Springer) for conducting unbiased patient two-sided long investigation (~3 months) in this matter, during which many abusive letters were issued by Dr Kuhad and team for forcing retraction.

Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief Prof. Dr J.E. Hermansen and associate publisher Liz Donell, removed the accepted paper from the Livestock Science unscientifically and unethically, stating that it was a redundant and possible duplicate publication of a TAHP paper and could not even be cross-referenced of, without attempting even for investigating the ground reality. That is, our original study used similar protocol (in vitro and in vivo studies) for both the treatments as appeared in two publications. We requested Editor-in-Chief of Livestock Science and associate publisher to clarify their wrong assumption by providing an official letter from the Director of our institute (NDRI) stating the validity of these two studies and data. However, they did not even bother to consider our plea, as we could not get any response from them except ‘withdrawn notice at ScienceDirect’, which was against our wish.

Regarding the data published in these two papers, I want to ensure that the both of papers and presented data were true and were published in the form of thesis, which was submitted to and approved by NDRI, Deemed University in 2012-13. Without going to these scientific facts, Adam Marcus, an ordinary science writer for ‘Retraction Watch’ gave meaningless interpretation in a non-professional manner. If anyone wants further clarification regarding any data of these two papers, I have complete scientific explanations.

We’ll pause here to note that Mahesh is entitled to his opinion of Adam’s science writing skills, which we find anything but ordinary. Mahesh has failed to convince us that our interpretation was “meaningless” or “non-professional.” Feel free to read the post for yourself. Back to Mahesh:

As international publishers are truly biased for Dr Kuhad (having research management post at the Delhi University; a powerful position in well known University with many publications in journals with IF>4.0) and his words, and are denying our publications, therefore, we have recently published a paper in the Indian Journal of Animal Nutrition ( And one more is in the line awaiting publication, as nothing has been falsified and nothing is unethical with our publications. These articles can be fully downloadable from my ResearchGate account (profile name: M.S. Mahesh)

Meanwhile, it can be seen that a paper from UD having Crinipellis sp. 5 days treated straw, like the one in our earlier TAHP has been published in nature group’s Scientific Reports (, bearing N number of errors and the data seems “highly un-reproducible”, as they claim 50% replacement of maize grains by wheat straw without compromising the growth performance!!!! Any professional ruminant nutritionist like editorial member(s) of Animal Feed Science and Technology, for example, ( the most reputed international animal nutrition journal, can verify their data. This is an open challenge in science!

After all these discussions, it seems clear that due to a lack of strong hold in research publications (rather with publishers!), as I am still a beginner, and due to dominance of people like Dr Kuhad, whole scientific publishing fraternity once again proved of following the general rule of 80:20, where nobody cares to listen to the words of true young researchers. Therefore, it is in my opinion seems relevant to conclude that today’s science publishing operates in more of business mode away from its primary motto of propagating true scientific knowledge.

We reached out to Dr. Kuhad at Delhi University, and he sent this response:

The journal Editor has thoroughly satisfied himself and then the paper was retracted.

Not only that his another paper was retracted from Live Stock Science.

We can never think of using abusive language while writing to Editor of a Journal. I am working as Editor or Reviewers for several Int. Journals.

Our work published in Scientific Reports has nothing to do with Mahesh. He wrote to Scientific Reports and after our satisfactory reply to Editor the matter is already over.

His cheating has been exposed that is why he is trying to malign us. We are in academic research since 1985.

Kuhad also attached an email he says Mahesh sent him, but until we confirm its authenticity with Mahesh, we will refrain from posting it here.

We have reached out to Livestock Science editor-in-chief John Erik Hermansen at Aarhaus University in Denmark and publisher Elsevier for more details, and will update if we hear back.

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2 thoughts on “Food fight: Animal nutrition author disputes two retractions”

  1. It is impossible for there to be two truths. There is an extremely important missing piece of information: the so-called “abusive letters” written by and sent to the editor(s) by Kuhad. Surely, Mahesh has the responsibility of making these public? He can do this easily by creating a PDF file and posting it at ResearchGate, as proof of his claims. After all, Kuhad firmly states: “We can never think of using abusive language while writing to Editor of a Journal.” So, these opinions differ markedly.

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