The Stanford President’s scientific papers come under scrutiny

The Stanford President’s scientific papers come under scrutiny

  • US News
  • December 2, 2022
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Stanford University said it will investigate claims made in its student newspaper that scholarly articles co-authored by its president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, contained altered images.

A neuroscientist and biotech entrepreneur, well known for his research on Alzheimer’s, Tessier-Lavigne has authored or co-authored approximately 300 scientific papers. Claims of anomalous images in some of them have appeared for years on PubPeer, a website that allows anonymous contributors to examine scholarly papers and flag potential errors.

Several studies are currently under scrutiny, dating back about two decades and co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne, published in journals such as Science, Nature and the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal.

Stanford said in a statement it will “assess the allegations” in a manner that is “consistent with its normal rigorous approach to reviewing and investigating allegations of research misconduct.”

The university said its board of trustees will oversee the investigation, but Tessier-Lavigne, a board member, will not be involved.

“Academic integrity is of the utmost importance to both the university and me personally,” Tessier-Lavigne said in a university statement. “I support this process and will be fully involved in it, and I appreciate the oversight of the Board of Trustees.”

The university’s announcement this week followed an article in the Stanford Daily in which Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist who works as an independent advisor on science integrity, said there were “serious problems” in some of the studies Tessier-Lavigne co – List author.

In addition, EMBO Journal announced last week that it is reviewing a 2008 paper on axon receptors that lists Tessier-Lavigne as the ninth author out of eleven. On PubPeer, Bik expressed concerns that some of the images included in the newspaper may have been digitally altered.

Bik said she was most concerned about images in a 1999 article in Cell that listed Tessier-Lavigneas as fifth of six co-authors. From her perspective, the images appear to have been manipulated, she said.

“I don’t think the university should do the research,” Bik said. “I don’t think they could examine him in an objective way.”

Bik said that concerns about Tessier-Lavigne’s papers were raised on PubPeer in 2015 and that Stanford newspaper asked her to review them.

“The question that I hope the Stanford investigation will honestly answer is, ‘Is this intentional tampering?'” said Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, a blog reporting on scientific misconduct. “Science is based on showing your work and being honest about what you found.”

In the highly collaborative world of laboratory research, it is common for a scientific paper to bear the names of many authors, and the specific contribution of each is not always apparent. A Stanford University spokesman told the student newspaper that Tessier-Lavigne did not create the controversial images in the EMBO Journal study.

Before becoming President of Stanford in 2016, Tessier-Lavigne was President of Rockefeller University in New York, served as Chief Scientific Officer at Genentech, overseeing cancer drug development, and co-founded biotech company Renovis.

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