Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process
A group of biomedical engineering researchers has lost four papers because they appear to be recycling their images from other papers.
The retractions for the group, from Banaras Hindu University in India, span papers published between 2011 and 2014. The retractions began in 2020, after anonymous PubPeer commenters pointed out the similarities between images. The four papers have been cited a total of 140 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
The latest paper to be retracted, “Alleviation of glutamate-mediated neuronal insult by piroxicam in rodent model of focal cerebral ischemia: a possible mechanism of GABA agonism,” was originally published in Springer Nature’s Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry in 2014. It has been cited 12 times.
According to the retraction notice:
The Editors-in-Chief have retracted this article because of anomalies in the images of brain sections presented in Figure 2a, namely:
7 panels in Figure 2a appear to be the same as panels in Figure 2a of a previous article 
2 panels in Figure 2a appear to be the same as panels in Figure 2a of a previous article 
2 panels in Figure 2a appear to be the same as panels in Figure 2a and 1 panel appears to be the same as a panel in Figure 3a of a previous article 
5 panels in Figure 2a appear to be the same as panels in Figure 2C of a previous article  The Editors-in-Chief therefore no longer have confidence in the results and conclusions presented. Pallab Bhattacharya, Anand Kumar Pandey, Sudip Paul and Ranjana Patnaik disagree with this retraction.
The first reference points to a 2013 paper in PLoS ONE, “Aquaporin-4 Inhibition Mediates Piroxicam-Induced Neuroprotection against Focal Cerebral Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury in Rodents.”
The journal editors retracted it in 2020 after “concerns were raised regarding similarities in text and figures in this article and previously published articles,” according to that retraction notice. The authors, who include Bhattacharya, Pandey, Paul, and Patnaik from the latest retraction, said that the similarities in images “resulted from inadvertent mis-uploading of panels during figure preparation,” and overlap in some sections of the text with other published articles “was due to the authors’ unawareness of guidelines.” The paper was cited 44 times.
The second reference is to a 2011 paper in the Elsevier journal Brain Research titled, “The role of ASIC1a in neuroprotection elicited by quercetin in focal cerebral ischemia,” which was retracted in 2021. Pandey and Patnaik are authors on this paper, but Bhattacharya and Paul are not. The paper was cited 34 times.
The authors requested the retraction of that paper in part because “the results of these studies were previously published in another journal, resulting in a striking similarity between the images in this article and that of Mishra V et al., 2010 Neuropharmacology,” the notice states. The Neuropharmacology paper is the fourth reference in the latest retraction, and does not share authors with the other papers.
“It should be noted that the Editor-in-Chief has serious concerns about the fact that some images in these studies were previously published in unrelated studies in another journal,” the Brain Research notice also states.
The third reference in the latest retraction points to another retracted paper by the same group of four authors published in 2014 in the Elsevier journal Life Sciences. The paper, “Melatonin renders neuroprotection by protein kinase C mediated aquaporin-4 inhibition in animal model of focal cerebral ischemia,” was retracted in 2021. The notice calls out similarities between images in that paper and the same PLoS One and Neuropharmacology papers. The paper was cited 50 times.
The Life Sciences retraction notice continues:
One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the work is original. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a misuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.
The group has other entries in the Retraction Watch database. Pandey and Patnaik, who are authors on all four retracted papers, also have an expression of concern and two corrections on other papers they coauthored with Paul and Bhattacharya.
The editors-in-chief of the Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Bhattacharya, one of the corresponding authors. The Gmail address listed for the other corresponding author, Patnaik, did not work.
The wave of retractions came after commenters on PubPeer pointed out the similarities between images in the papers, though the images purportedly showed the results of different experiments on rats.
One of the authors, Sudip Paul, initially commented regarding the Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry paper:
Images do not look similar. TTC stains are always confusing looking similar in context to its small pattern of infarct and volume .This can only be clearly differentiated when you see the original data file. It will rechecked with the raw data file and if any misupload has mistakenly happened will surely communicate to journal for correction.This doesnot affect the main findings of the study anyways .Thank you for your time.
As an supporting author of this paper, this is my observation.
After other commenters reiterated the concerns, Paul replied:
In the interests of avoiding a lengthy and largely repetitive reply in one way or other, I am going to refrain from further posts on this topic. I do genuinely appreciate being made us aware of this and assure you that we will check this at our end and will do needful that will be required.I certainly don’t claim to be perfect and am happy to engage in good faith dialogue about our work, but the internet may be a challenging venue when investigations are underway.
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your email address will not be published.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.