Paper earns expression of concern after author blames COVID-19 restrictions for not being able to find raw data

The pandemic ate our data. 

A group of researchers in India whose findings in a 2015 paper evidently looked too good to be true have received an expression of concern because they claim Covid-19 restrictions have made it impossible to recover their raw data.

The article, “Possible role of P-glycoprotein in the neuroprotective mechanism of berberine in intracerebroventricular streptozotocin-induced cognitive dysfunction,” appeared in Psychopharmacology, a Springer Nature journal. The authors, led by Anil Kumar, were affiliated with the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Panjab University in Chandigarh.

The paper has been cited 16 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science. 

According to the notice

The Editor-in-Chief would like to alert readers that concerns have been raised regarding the data in this article [1]. The biochemical indices are almost perfectly correlated with the behavioural variables suggesting that either the behaviour is completely determined by nitrite and lipid peroxidation or that there are problems with the data. In addition to this, the standard errors for all variables are suspiciously low based on other typical variance found in the published literature. Currently the authors are unable to recover the raw data due to national lockdown related to Covid-19. Further editorial action may be taken following the analysis of the raw data or request of further institutional investigation. In the meantime readers are advised to interpret the results with caution. Anil Kumar has not responded to any correspondence from the editor/publisher about this editorial expression of concern.

The expression of concern is dated August 4. India did indeed have a national lockdown earlier this year, but that ended in mid-May.

Kumar was first author on at least three retracted papers dating back to 2011, all for problematic data. He has not responded to a request for comment.

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