Scientist to chemistry journal: “Plse retract this ms ASAP”

The presence of allegedly obvious manipulations in a 2017 chemistry paper has prompted a reader outcry.

Over the last couple of days, a user on PubPeer and others on Twitter have accused the paper of containing clear duplications; the paper was already corrected in August, in which one scientist alleges the authors replaced “an obviously fabricated” figure with a “slightly better photo-shopped one.”

In response, the editor of ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, David Kaplan, told us:

we are taking another look and should be able to decide on next steps shortly.

We spoke with corresponding author Rashmi Madhuri at the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines) in Dhanbad briefly by phone; Madhuri told us she didn’t think she knew the person who had posted concerns about the paper on PubPeer. When we asked her if she planned to correct or revisit the images in the paper, the line was disconnected.

“Anisotropic Gold Nanoparticle Decorated Magnetopolymersome: An Advanced Nanocarrier for Targeted Photothermal Therapy and Dual-Mode Responsive T1 MRI Imaging” was published in March 2017. It was already corrected in August, with the following notice:

The version of Figure 1 published ASAP on March 31, 2017, contained some errors. The authors have replaced the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images in Figure 1A−D with new images recorded following the same protocol as described in the article. This discrepancy does not affect the results and the discussions within the manuscript nor the conclusions that were drawn. The authors apologize for any confusion that may have occurred due to this error. The corrected version was published ASAP August 21, 2017.

Two days ago, the PubPeer user pointed out a potential issue with figure 2B and 2C in the paper, below, which were not subject to the correction, noting:

It is interesting to see which illustrations in this paper were not seen by the journal’s Editors as needing a replacement, when they corrected Figure 1.


The same user on PubPeer also noted potential problems with the corrected image, below (original on left):


The user noted:

Evidently these changes were enough to convince the journal’s editors that the paper was legitimate and the original illustrative flaws were an innocent mistake.

People took to Twitter to express their concerns about the paper:


Last year, two journals retracted papers that contained what appeared to be obvious duplications, following an outcry on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “Scientist to chemistry journal: “Plse retract this ms ASAP””

  1. I agree with the criticisms and cannot understand why the editor did not ask for the original full resolution TEM figures with full embedded information (date, apparatus, sample name, scale….); looking and sending large files is not really a problem. For the spectra, primary data with record information have to be mandatory as electronic supplementary information. I suggest reviewer colleagues to ask systematically editors for original figures. I am tired to write in review that the TEM images were cut and scale is not original, but added.
    I hope that in the near future, it will be mandatory to add all the original and primary data to a submitted manuscript to be accepted by the editor before sending it to the reviewer.

  2. Madhuri told us she didn’t think she knew the person who had posted concerns about the paper on PubPeer.

    Did you *ask* whether she thought she knew the critic(s), or was this lack of knowledge volunteered spontaneously?

  3. Approximately 40 distinct papers from this group have appeared on pubpeer in less than two weeks. The problems presented are just as egregious as those in the paper highlighted in this RW post.

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