Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 15
Bringing Panjab University under the scanner of academic integrity, international open-access journal Plos One on April 15 retracted one of the research papers authored by two of the university’s professors and a research scholar. The editors of the journal have cited concerns over the validity of data shown in the article, titled “Suppression of Neuroinflammatory and Apoptotic Signaling Cascade by Curcumin Alone and in Combination with Piperine in Rat Model of Olfactory Bulbectomy Induced Depression”, which they received on January 12, 2013.
The article has been authored by Prof Anil Kumar of the PU’s University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prof Sukant Garg of Dr Harvansh Singh Judge Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital, PU, and the then research scholar Puneet Rinwa. Plos One also mentions on its website that the authors acknowledged the financial support of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, for carrying out this work. “The fund providers, however, had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript,” reads the website.
The Tribune contacted the Senior Editor, Publication Ethics, Plos One, Renee Hoch, who responded via e-mail: “We decided to retract this article due to concerns about the validity of results reported in Figures 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8. We have notified Panjab University of our concerns with the study.”
The journal, while stating reasons for retraction of the paper, on its website, wrote: “A member of Plos One’s editorial board and an external reviewer with statistical expertise expressed concerns that the same fold changes were observed between the indicated data sets for all groups, and advised that the degree of correlation between variates appears to exceed considerably what would be expected in such experiments given the assays used, the number of animals per group, and that different groups of animals were used for the different experiments.” The corresponding author commented that the results in these figures are from different experiments expected to yield opposite results. The underlying data supporting the results are not available.
UGC notice on academic integrity
In a public notice on academic integrity, the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Friday launched a Consortium of Academic and Research Ethics (CARE) to “identify, continuously monitor and maintain UGC-CARE Reference List of Quality Journals across disciplines”. The notice comes in view of increased incidence of compromised publication ethics and deteriorating academic integrity being a growing problem contaminating all domains of research. “It has been reported that in India, the percentage of research articles published in predatory journals is high. Unethical practices leading to ‘pay and publish trash’ culture needs to be thwarted immediately,” the UGC notice reads. UGC-CARE List is available at the UGC-CARE website, with useful resources as relevant publications, audio-visual materials, videos, weblinks etc. UGC CARE website also provides FAQs, feedback and grievance-redressal mechanism.
- The Indian Academic community must avoid publication in predatory/dubious journals or participation in predatory conferences. It is further advised that they must not get associated (as editors/advisers or in any other capacity) with journals, publishers and conferences involved in fraudulent/dubious practices.
- Any publications in predatory/dubious journals or presentations in predatory/dubious conferences should not be considered for academic credit for selection, confirmation, promotion, performance, appraisal, award of scholarship or academic degrees or credits in any form. With immediate effect, research publications only from journals indexed in UGC-CARE List should be used for academic purposes.
- VCs, selection committees, research supervisors and such other experts involved in academic evaluation/assessment are hereby advised that they must make sure that their decisions are primarily based on quality of research work and not merely on number of publications.
- Any attempt of compromised academic integrity should be challenged, questioned and derecognised at all levels.
- UGC (Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2018 and UGC-CARE website may be referred for more information.
No policy for preserving raw data: Author
Earlier too a British journal had raised concerns over a paper, asking me to provide them with raw data, but we don’t keep raw data. There are no guidelines/policies for preserving data. ‘Plos One’ had told us about the retraction of the paper. When I objected, they asked me for raw data. It’s been more than six years since we submitted the paper and we don’t have raw data. — Prof Anil Kumar, one of the authors
The biggest problem is absence of raw data. A data-setter will be able to defend himself if raw data set is available. A committee was set up a week ago to make guidelines and policies so that raw data is safe with the author for a minimum 10 years after the paper has been written. The committee will look into the guidelines of The Committee on Publication Ethics. However, no meeting of the committee has been convened yet. — Prof RK Singla, Dean, Research, PU
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