Stanford president quits following false data accusations

Scientific papers

The president of Stanford University in the US has announced he will resign after the university found that scientific papers he had published contained manipulated research data.

The scientific misconduct inquiry did not find neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne guilty of falsifying research personally, but said that papers he co-authored had “serious flaws”.

The report stated: “For the seven reviewed papers where Dr Tessier-Lavigne was a non-principal author, the Scientific Panel has concluded that Dr Tessier-Lavigne did not have actual knowledge of any manipulation of research data, did not have a material role in the preparation of the data and/or figures that have been publicly challenged, and was not in a position where a reasonable scientist would be expected to have detected any such misconduct.”

However, for the five reviewed papers where Tessier-Lavigne was a principal author, the panel concluded that while he did not have actual knowledge of the manipulation of research data, in at least four of the five papers, there was manipulation of research data by others.

Tessier-Lavigne has said that he intends to retract at least three of these five papers and, at a minimum, “pursue robust corrections” as to the other two.

Failings in lab management

Regarding the ‘culture’ of the labs involved, the report said: “The unusual frequency of manipulation of research data and/or substandard scientific practices from different people, at different times, and in labs at different institutions, suggests that there may have been opportunities to improve laboratory oversight and management.”

In a statement, Tessier-Lavigne said: “I have consistently denied any allegations that I engaged in fraud or any other unethical conduct related to my research and papers. I am gratified that the panel concluded I did not engage in any fraud or falsification of scientific data.”

Despite this, he added that he takes responsibility for the work of his lab members and had decided to step down due to his “respect for the University and its community and my unwavering commitment to doing what I believe is in the best interests of Stanford”.

In the future, Tessier-Lavigne stated, he will be tightening controls, particularly when it comes to matching processed images to original raw data.

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