The head of an investigative panel at the state-backed Riken institute that found one of its scientists guilty of research misconduct over the contested discovery of “STAP cells” resigned as chairman Friday amid allegations his own research paper contains falsifications.
Riken began a preliminary probe into the allegations, a move likely to affect the appeal process initiated by accused scientist Haruko Obokata, who was judged by the panel to have fabricated and falsified data in her papers on so-called STAP cells.
Shunsuke Ishii, a senior scientist who heads Riken’s Molecular Genetics Laboratory, said on his lab’s website that in a paper published in the cancer journal Oncogene in 2008, some images had been cut and pasted so their order would match the explanations given in the text. He was one of the principal authors of the cancer gene paper.
Ishii apologized for causing people to develop doubts about the paper, but noted that permission has already been obtained from the journal’s editor to make corrections.
The senior scientist offered to step down as the panel chairman after allegations surfaced on the Internet over the gene analyses images in the paper. Riken accepted his resignation on Friday, according to an official.
In the STAP papers published in the journal Nature in January, Obokata and her co-authors claimed the discovery of a new and simpler way to produce mouse stem cells, which they named stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency cells.
Ishii’s investigative panel concluded in a report announced April 1 that Obokata, a researcher at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology, falsified data in the papers by cutting and pasting an image.
It said Obokata evidently created a composite image to “articulate” the outcome of an experiment, and that it was therefore an “act of research misconduct corresponding to falsification.”
Obokata has disputed the conclusions.
After reports that Ishii resigned as head of the Riken panel, a lawyer representing Obokata said Ishii should stay on if he does not find what he did in his paper constitutes research misconduct.