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Riken accuses Obokata of wrongdoing in breakthrough research papers


THE ASAHI SHIMBUN



The Riken national research institute said April 1 it found evidence of misconduct in supposedly groundbreaking studies on stem cells that had brought worldwide acclaim to one of its scientists.

An investigative committee was set up after irregularities were pointed out in articles published by stem-cell biologist Haruko Obokata in the prestigious British science journal Nature in late January.

In its final report April 1, the committee accused Obokata of fabricating and doctoring illustrations in her research papers.

The committee concluded that Obokata, who heads a research unit at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, had committed wrongdoing.

Her co-authors in the research papers were absolved of unethical behavior, but some were criticized for failing to exercise appropriate oversight of Obokata's research.

Obokata issued a statement the same day through a lawyer that blasted the Riken investigative report.

"I absolutely cannot accept the conclusion that research was fabricated and doctored," the statement said.

Obokata acknowledged that mistakes had occurred in the creation of images used in the articles published in the science magazine, but insisted there was no malicious intent.

She called them simple mistakes.

Obokata plans to file a formal complaint against Riken shortly.

At a separate news conference on April 1, Riken President Ryoji Noyori announced that a disciplinary committee would be set up to consider what measures to take against Obokata.

The final report could spell the downfall of the 30-year-old Obokata, who became the darling of the Japanese scientific community when her research articles were published.

The articles published in Nature claimed that under a new process called "stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency" (STAP), strong external stresses, such as a weak acid bath, could reprogram mouse lymphocyte cells into pluripotent cells, which can develop into different body organs and tissue. The Nature editorial board is also conducting an investigation to determine if the articles should be retracted.

Riken set up its investigative committee in February after suspicions were raised about some of the images used in the articles.

Committee members questioned four co-authors who are currently or were previously affiliated with Riken. Members also examined data, experiment notes and e-mail messages that may have been used in the writing of the articles.

The final report covered four items for which the committee withheld judgement when it released its interim report on March 14.

The final report examined illustrations that were said to represent the pluripotency of the STAP cells. Images that Obokata used three years ago in her doctoral dissertation that was on a theme different from STAP cells were found to be identical with the ones in the Nature articles.

The final report said the use of those images fundamentally destroyed the integrity of the data. The report called the use of the images a fabrication of research because they were used while Obokata was aware of the dangers involved.

Two co-authors who were also questioned were Teruhiko Wakayama, a professor of developmental engineering with the University of Yamanashi, and Yoshiki Sasai, the deputy director of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe. The report said the two were not involved in the fabrication, but bore huge responsibility in light of the positions they held.

The report also described as "doctoring" the tweaking and combining of images to produce an image of the results of genetic analysis. It said the process was done simply to create an image that has less imperfections.

The co-authors were not judged to have been involved in the wrongdoing because they were shown the doctored images before the articles were submitted.

The report did not find any wrongdoing in the copying of text from another publication of experiment procedures or the publishing of experiment procedures that were different from the actual procedures used. The report concluded the experiment was conducted and that there was no intentional publishing of procedures that were different from the actual experiment.

The report also pointed to the lack of detailed experiment notes that made it difficult for a third party to accurately follow what Obokata claims to have done. That failure was criticized as representing "an absence of ethics as a researcher as well as sincerity and humility toward science."

Shunsuke Ishii, a Riken chief scientist who heads the investigation committee, stopped short of saying whether STAP cells actually existed.

"That goes beyond the mission of our investigative committee," he said.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404010058
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上記広告は1ヶ月以上更新のないブログに表示されています。新しい記事を書くことで広告を消せます。