On October 5, 2020, Bandhopadhyay et al. published “Discovery of iron-sensing bacterial riboswitches” in Nature Chemical Biology. The publication was announced in an NCBS press release dated October 6, 2020. Soon after publication, attention was drawn by readers on the website PubPeer to suspicious features in certain images in the paper. These concerns were immediately communicated by senior author Dr. Arati Ramesh to NCBS. The institution initiated an inquiry, conducted by a committee including an independent external member. Dr. Ramesh cooperated fully with the inquiry, sharing all the full gel images and other data related to the study. The committee completed its investigation on November 23, 2020 and submitted its report to the NCBS Director. The report concluded that image manipulation had indeed occurred, and were carried out by a single individual. This individual is no longer affiliated with NCBS. In accordance with the committee’s recommendations, Dr. Ramesh initiated the process of retracting the paper on February 1, 2021. The final retraction occurred on June 30, 2021.
Dr. Arati Ramesh wishes to state: “As the corresponding author, I must bear responsibility and am deeply shocked, disturbed and very saddened that such scientific misconduct could happen under my watch.” A full statement from Dr. Ramesh will be made available on her website.
NCBS Director, Prof Satyajit Mayor, added, “NCBS upholds the highest standards and quality of scientific research and we are committed, now more than ever, to acknowledging concerns, taking responsibility, and ensuring scientific integrity. This unfortunate instance has made us reevaluate our internal processes and put in place additional measures and sensitization procedures to prevent these lapses. Whether bacterial riboswitches can sense iron needs careful evaluation, but is an exciting prospect.”