Author under fire has eight papers retracted, including seven from one journal

A researcher whose work on the use of nanomaterials has been heavily scrutinized on PubPeer — with one critic alleging a paper contained “obviously fabricated” images — has lost eight papers. [Editor’s note: See update below.]

The eight articles — seven from Biosensors and Bioelectronics and one from Analytica Chimica Acta, both published by Elsevier — all cite issues related to duplications, and conclude with some version of the following:

This problem with the data casts doubt on all the data, and accordingly also the conclusions based on that data, in this publication.

All papers have the same corresponding author — Rashmi Madhuri at the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines). We’ve contacted Madhuri, but haven’t heard back.

We first covered Madhuri’s work last year, after a user on PubPeer and others on Twitter accused one of her papers (which was eventually retracted) of containing clear duplications. The paper had been corrected a few months prior, in which one scientist alleges the authors replaced “an obviously fabricated” figure with a “slightly better photo-shopped one.” Earlier this year, Madhuri issued a puzzling correction to a 2015 paper, in which the text of the correction doesn’t match the changes to the article.

All of the latest retractions were requested by the editors of the two journals. Here’s a sample notice for “Imprinted ZnO nanostructure-based electrochemical sensing of calcitonin: A clinical marker for medullary thyroid carcinoma” which, like the others, cites issues with duplications:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor following concerns raised by various readers.

The article reports different electron micrographs for different sample preparations, but some images are of different areas from the same sample. Figure 4E is a magnified section of Figure 4C, and the images are identical as demonstrated by overlapping the images and adjusting for magnification scale.

The article reports EDX spectra in Figure 5C and Figure 5D for samples that are reported as different. An overlay of the spectra indicate they are identical in magnitude and in the random fluctuations of noise except in the specific zones where the signal was expected to vary.

These problems with the data presented cast doubt on all the data, and accordingly also the conclusions based on that data, in this publication.

The 2015 paper has been cited 22 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. Like the other papers, some of the data have been discussed on PubPeer.

Two of the retracted papers appeared in a special issue of Biosensors and Biomaterials — and both include the editor of that issue (Ashutosh Tiwari) as a co-author. Those papers are:

As one PubPeer user noted:

Isn’t there a clear conflict of interest if the editor of an article is also an author? Not just in terms of compromising the peer-review process, but who would handle the expression of concern that the multitude of examples of image and data duplication raised here generates?

Last year, we spoke with Madhuri briefly by phone regarding the criticisms of the now-retracted paper; she told us she didn’t think she knew the person who had posted concerns about the paper on PubPeer, and then the line was disconnected.

The four other retracted papers are:

Hat tip: Smut Clyde

Editor’s note, April 25 2018, 13:46 UTC: Soon after this post appeared, we discovered two more retractions in Biosensors and Bioelectronics. The post has been updated to reflect the latest count.

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5 thoughts on “Author under fire has eight papers retracted, including seven from one journal”

  1. If Elsevier editors are so reliant on PubPeer contributors to tell them what’s wrong with papers in their journals, perhaps they should consider donating to cover PubPeer expenses.

  2. Retraction of “Anisotropic Gold Nanoparticle Decorated Magnetopolymersome: An Advanced Nanocarrier for Targeted Photothermal Therapy and Dual-Mode Responsive T1 MRI Imaging”
    Ekta Roy, Santanu Patra, Rashmi Madhuri*, and Prashant K. Sharma
    ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng., 2018, 4 (3), pp 1112–1112
    DOI: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.8b00123
    Publication Date (Web): February 7, 2018

    https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsbiomaterials.8b00123

    “The Editor retracts this article based on concerns with the microscopy data presented in this published article. In response to a reader’s concern, the authors had replaced TEM images in Figure 1A−D with a corrected version published on August 21, 2017. However, following publication of the corrected version, additional concerns have been raised about Figures 5 and 6. Taken together, these concerns are significant enough to cast doubt on the overall validity of the data presented in this manuscript, not just limited to the specific figures mentioned above and, therefore, the overall conclusions drawn in this paper. The original article was published on 03/31/2017 and retracted on 02/07/2018.”

    1. It is like waiting for the next shoe to drop — and the next — and the one after that, when you have a centipede living upstairs.

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