PLOS ONE pulls maize paper with Photoshopped images

PLOS OnePLOS ONE has retracted a paper after editors learned that some of the images had been manipulated using Photoshop.

First author of the paper, Chuan Li, confirmed that he was responsible, and told Retraction Watch he apologizes for his “low-level mistake.”

Zhongfu Ni, last author of the paper from the China Agricultural University in Beijing, told us that all the co-authors agree with the retraction.

Here’s the retraction notice:

It has been brought to the attention of the PLOS ONE Editors that there is partial duplication of images in Figures 4B, 4C and 5A.

Upon our follow up with the authors of the article, it was established that images for sample 35S::ZmARF25 plant #4 panel 4B (siliques) and 4C (plants) were generated by Photoshop software manipulation of images from other plants. In Figure 5A, the same image was erroneously used for both samples.

In view of the intentional manipulation of photographic images related to sample 35S::ZmARF25 plant #4, the PLOS ONE Editors retract this article. The authors expressed deep regret for this circumstance and apologize to the community.

The 2014 paper about the breeding of maize, “Ectopic Expression of a Maize Hybrid Down-Regulated GeneZmARF25 Decreases Organ Size by Affecting Cellular Proliferation in Arabidopsis,” has so far been cited five times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Li, who left Ni’s lab in 2014 after finishing his PhD, told us:

I admit that I manipulated the figures of transgenetic line #4 and I agree to the retraction.

He continued:

I’m regretful for this circumstance and apologize sincerely. I made a low-level mistake, but did not lose the moral standards.

Li added that the authors still hold the original data, and claimed that the paper’s findings are reproducible.

When asked if researchers building on the work may have been misled, Ni said:

I think that our results didn’t misle[a]d anyone trying to build on [our] work, because our data could be validated by independent research. In addition, we can provide the seeds of all transgenic plants for validation and research.

PLOS ONE spokesperson added:

A reader raised concerns about Figures 4 and 5 to the attention of the editorial office. The manipulation of Figures 4B and 4C was established upon our follow up with the authors. As per our standard process, the authors were notified of the editors’ decision to retract prior to the processing of the notification.

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One thought on “PLOS ONE pulls maize paper with Photoshopped images”

  1. I made a low-level mistake, but did not lose the moral standards.

    That is reassuring.

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