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Stanford University President Under Investigation for Alleged Scientific Research Misconduct

Stanford University President Under Investigation for Alleged Scientific Research Misconduct

“following public allegations that the research contains multiple altered images”

The school president is a scientist and some of his older papers are drawing scrutiny.

The College Fix reports:

Stanford president under investigation for scientific research misconduct

Stanford University is overseeing an investigation into the research integrity of its own president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

Four neurobiology papers co-authored by the president, a prominent neurobiologist, are now under review for alleged scientific misconduct regarding altered images and other errors in several scientific journals.

The European Molecular Biology Journal, a prominent scientific publication, “confirmed to The [Stanford] Daily that it is reviewing a paper co-authored by [Tessier-Lavigne] for scientific misconduct following public allegations that the research contains multiple altered images.”

The College Fix reached out to the journal via email on December 1 to confirm that there is reason to suspect Tessier-Levigne of wrongdoing and to ask whether the other ten authors of the paper might be similarly implicated.

Bernd Pulverer, head of scientific publications, responded to The Fix that the journal has “contacted the authors to obtain further information and will contact the relevant research institutions according to our detailed policies and due diligence process.”

However, “it would be premature of us to comment on your specific questions at this time,” Pulverer stated.

The journal wrote in a public post that it is is “aware” of and investigating the controversy following allegations of potentially intentionally misleading errors in a 2008 paper about brain receptors in which Tessier-Lavigne (pictured) is listed as the third author of 11, according to The Stanford Daily.

“The EMBO Journal is aware of these issues and is looking into this,” the post from the journal read, in response to a series of postings on PubPeer, an online blog in which scientists had discussed the integrity of the research.

Tessier-Lavinge has served as president of Stanford since 2016, according to his university bio.

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Comments

One of the disturbing trends in science in general is “piling on,” but in this case it is adding a huge number of co-authors onto papers who have at best a superficial relationship to the work. I guess a similar parallel would be the “executive producer” credits on TV shows and movies which often outnumber the cast. Anyhoo, if one looks at publications from 40 to 50 years ago, they were almost always single author or maybe two or three, being the scientist doing the majority of the work and their advisor/lab chief/or actual scientific partner in a lab. But somewhere along the line names just started to get tacked on and nowadays we see papers with 10, 20, or 30 authors, to the point where the person doing the actual work often gets drowned out and shares credit with the tech who got everyone coffee. There was a guy over in Europe who worked out a cloning procedure for antibodies back in the 80’s, and now every paper that utilizes said antibodies or a derivative has his name as an authorship, even though he might never have actually met the principal author. There is little distinction for actual authorship vs having one’s name tacked on. So who knows what is happening here, whether MTL is an actual culprit, or just happened to be sharing the same foxhole.

I am in posession of knowledge which could similarly affect a number of careers like this, but it would also trickle down to involve some people that I actually care about in a negative way, a negative which in my eyes would far outweigh the good of exposing the fraud, which I suspect was overlooked in order to show productivity which then ensure continued funding. Not that it matters as I am retired from the field, but both then and now I am OK with the decision to not have my name on a number of papers. As I said to the cashier the other day who gave me too much change, “I’m not saying that my integrity can’t be bought, but it is going to be for a bit more than $5.”

If any good comes from this, it might be a reversal of the trend to just tack on names for the heck of it. Someone is either an essential contributor, or they aren’t.