The retraction notices, issued in late March by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in the U.K., all state that:
The authors informed the Editor that the characterization of the original samples was outsourced, and they do not have the original raw data for the published results. Given the significance of the concerns about the validity of the data, and the lack of raw data, the findings presented in this paper are not reliable.
The corresponding author, Dhanaraj Gopi of Periyar University in Tamil Nadu, had several papers flagged on PubPeer starting in 2019, including some that have not been retracted.
Gopi replied, admitting that there had been “inadvertent misrepresentation of images in our paper due to errors in the assembly of figure panels, which were reshuffled during revision or resubmission.”
Since We have no expertise in biology, We got in touch with [the] biological institution. So, we are strongly apologizing for this unintentional error. Mostly, these type[s] of errors happen due to the outsourcing [of] images. In this regard, we assure you that this mistake will not happen anymore. Also, we are in the process of correcting this in the journal. And we hope that this error does not change the interpretation of the results or the conclusions of the work in this journal.
Bik expressed puzzlement at Gopi’s comments:
Does this mean that certain figures in this paper were created by outsourcing experiments? And that the authors do not have any expertise [in] what these experiments are showing? Could the authors please clarify which of the figures in this paper were outsourced and to which institute or company? Could the authors also please clarify which part of their paper they do not have expertise in, and which parts of the paper they feel they are not responsible for?
These duplications within figures are really, really hard to explain by simple mistakes, so any clarification on what actually happened here would be welcome.