An author asked for multiple corrections to a paper. PLOS ONE decided to retract it.

After an author requested a slew of changes to a published paper, journal editors reviewed the study and spotted “additional concerns” that led to its retraction.

The study, titled “Pressure regulated basis for gene transcription by delta-cell micro-compliance modeled in silico: Biphenyl, bisphenol and small molecule ligand models of cell contraction-expansion,” was published in PLOS ONE on Oct. 6th, 2020. Its sole author was Hemant Sarin, a “freelance investigator in translational science and medicine” from Charleston, W.Va.

The study was pulled on March 25th with the following notice:

After this article [1] was published, the corresponding author contacted PLOS ONE to request corrections. The author advised that he did not intend for [1] to be published in its current online form, and that the article should be retracted in the event that the requested revisions could not be incorporated into the published version of the article.

The requested changes involve substantial revisions to the rationale, methodology, results and conclusions reported in the article text, as well as changes to Tables 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, and Figs 2 and 3. The PLOS ONE Editors determined that the requested revisions go beyond what is suitable for a Correction per the journal’s editorial standards and would instead necessitate a full re-review of an updated manuscript.

When the editors dug into Sarin’s requests, they uncovered other problems with the work:

In reviewing the correction request, the PLOS ONE Editors identified additional concerns with the article, including:

A specific scientific rationale for the selection of representative small molecules and genes was not provided, raising questions about whether the results presented are applicable beyond the compounds studied.

The methods were not described in sufficient detail to clearly relay the study design and enable other researchers to interpret the results or reproduce the analyses.

The article did not report adequate validation of the in silico model to support the reported claims about gene transcription regulation.

In light of these additional issues, the PLOS ONE Editors determined that the published article does not meet the journal’s publication criteria and there are concerns about the validity of the reported results and conclusions.

Sarin said that he would address the “issues in a future submission of this work,” according to the notice. He did not respond to our requests for comment.

The editor of the study, Esra Bozgeyvik, a professor at Tekirdag Namik Kemal University in Turkey, told us that “the problems in the article were missed during the evaluation process.” She also said that “the retraction of the article seems to be the best option because any changes should also be re-reviewed and this is not possible after acceptance.”

When we asked why issues with the study were only spotted after Sarin requested corrections, David Knutson, a spokesperson for PLOS ONE, said: 

The additional concerns outlined in the retraction notice were identified by PLOS staff editors when reviewing the authors’ correction requests. We regret that the issues were not fully addressed during peer review. PLOS ONE relies on editors and peer reviewers to critically assess manuscripts prior to publication, and unfortunately scientific concerns may be missed in this process. Whether issues are noted before or after publication we follow-up to ensure that PLOS publications are scientifically valid and adhere to the journal’s publication criteria.

A doctor with the same name as the author, Hemant Sarin, lost his medical license in Maryland in 2019, after failing to submit a criminal background check, according to public documents issued by that state’s board of physicians. The revocation was for one year, but Sarin’s medical license is still listed as “revoked” in that state.

The Hemant Sarin who lost his Maryland medical license lists an address in Charleston, which matches the location given in the PLOS ONE paper. 

The author Sarin is also an ambassador for an organization called Future Science, and gives his affiliation as “freelance investigator” with an M.D. earned in 1999, a year that matches the medical board records for Hemant Sarin’s license in California, Maryland and other states.

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One thought on “An author asked for multiple corrections to a paper. PLOS ONE decided to retract it.”

  1. There was also a person with the same name affiliated with the NIH who published one or more papers in translational medicine.

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