Journal retracts plant paper because authors plagiarized from a garden site — and several papers

A Springer Nature journal has retracted a paper it published in July after learning that the authors manipulated and plagiarized images galore. 

The paper, “Novel green synthesis and antioxidant, cytotoxicity, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anticholinergics, and wound healing properties of cobalt nanoparticles containing Ziziphora clinopodioides Lam leaves extract,” appeared in Scientific Reports. Its authors were affiliated with institutions in China, Iran and Turkey. 

According to the retraction notice

After publication it was brought to the Editors’ attention that some of the figures in this article contain images duplicated from other sources. Specifically:

— Figure 2 appears to be duplicated (with modification to contrast and 90 degrees rotation) from Figure 1 in Rouhollahi et al.1, which reports a different set of experiments.

— Panels in Figure 9 appear to be duplicated from panels in Figure 1 in Ghashghaii et al.2, which reports a different set of experiments.

— Figure 10 contains internal duplications between panels A and B, and between panels E and F, which all represent different experimental conditions.

— In addition, Figure 1 appears to have been reused (with alterations to the aspect ratio) from an online source3.

The Editors therefore no longer have confidence in the integrity of the data presented.

Behnam Mahdavi, Sogand Paydarfard, Mohammad Mahdi Zangeneh, Akram Zangeneh, Nastaran Sadeghian, Parham Taslimi and Fatih Sen do not agree with this retraction. Huifang Hou and Vildan Erduran have not responded to any correspondence from the Editors about this retraction.

The online source mentioned in the notice? That would be Dave’s Garden, an online horticultural clearinghouse with an annual photo contest. 

Fatih Sen, of Dumlupinar University in Kutahya, Turkey, is one of the corresponding authors of the paper. And, according to data sleuth Elisabeth Bik, his papers are fertile ground for doctored images. Per Bik, at least 84 articles from Sen’s group have been flagged on PubPeer — roughly half of his total publications. However, the article in Scientific Reports marks his first retraction, as far as we can tell.

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