PLOS ONE pulls malaria study for “inappropriate manipulation” of figures

PLOS OnePLOS ONE has retracted a malaria paper after an institutional investigation found evidence the authors had manipulated multiple figures.

According to the notice, the authors’ institution — the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi, India — recommended the journal retract the paper.

Here’s the retraction notice, issued by PLOS ONE on June 30:

The PLOS ONE editors retract this article following an investigation into concerns about the presentation of Figures 6 and 10.

The PLOS ONE editors were alerted to concerns about Fig 6 and 10 in the article. Upon follow up with the authors and an evaluation of the raw data supplied, concerns about the figures remained and an institutional investigation was requested.

The investigation conducted by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology revealed that figures 6 and 10 show evidence of inappropriate manipulation: Fig 6 panels C and D are derived from the same gel; Fig 10 A, B and C are derived from the same gel. Additionally, the substrate structure as described in the text is missing from Fig 10.

Consistent with the recommendation by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of the investigation panel, the PLOS ONE editors retract this publication.

The 2014 paper, “Genetically Engineered Synthetic Miniaturized Versions of Plasmodium falciparum UvrD Helicase Are Catalytically Active,” has so far been cited twice, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

A PLOS spokesperson told us:

A reader contacted the editorial office to raise concerns about figures 6 and 10 in the article. The in-house editors followed up with the authors and, upon consideration of their response, requested an investigation by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. After an investigation, this institution indicated that the figures show evidence of inappropriate manipulation.

The spokesperson added:

Upon consideration of the concerns identified and the outcome of the investigation by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the PLOS ONE editors decided to proceed with the retraction of the article.

We’ve reached out to ICGEB and Renu Tuteja, the corresponding author of the paper, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

Earlier in June, PLOS ONE pulled two other papers about malaria — specifically, the effects of treated bed nets on mosquitoes — after an institutional investigation could not confirm the experiments ever took place.

Update: 7/12/16 10.42 a.m. ET: Dinakar Salunke, director of ICGEB Delhi, sent us this letter from the appointed enquiry committee. He added:

While it is true that there was a problem with two figures, the results in the original paper were subsequently validated. There is a communication from the journal inviting the senior author of the paper to resubmit the article incorporating the revised version of the figures in question.

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2 thoughts on “PLOS ONE pulls malaria study for “inappropriate manipulation” of figures”

    1. Yes, they are like increasing or decreasing the overall brightness or contrast of a figure, just when it’s applied to overall image or figure not to specific parts!

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