National / Science & Health

Waseda to strip Obokata of doctorate unless she corrects her dissertation

Kyodo

Waseda University said Tuesday it will strip embattled researcher Haruko Obokata of her doctorate unless she corrects her dissertation, following her involvement in the scandal earlier this year related to research on so-called STAP cells.

Citing a serious fault in the dissertation screening process, the university gave Obokata a year to correct a number of irregularities, including the use of material from a U.S. website, meaning the 31-year-old researcher at the government-affiliated Riken institute will be able to retain her degree for the time being.

Obokata said she will comply with the university’s decision and have her dissertation screened again after resubmitting it, according to her lawyer, Hideo Miki.

The university has also decided to suspend Satoshi Tsuneda, the professor who supervised Obokata’s doctoral research, from work for a month and to cut the executive allowance of university President Kaoru Kamata.

“Now is the moratorium time for correction,” Kamata told a news conference, adding the dissertation was unworthy of a doctorate.

The move came after the university’s investigative panel concluded in July that 26 problematic points, including copyright infringement, were discovered in Obokata’s dissertation written in 2011, which gave “little adequacy and credibility” to the work.

But the panel said Obokata should not be stripped of her doctorate, saying inadequate screening was to blame for the endorsement of a “problematic” dissertation.

Twenty pages of her dissertation have been found to almost overlap descriptions on the U.S. National Institute of Health’s website.

The university launched the probe after papers lead-authored by Obokata on stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, cells, purportedly capable of developing into any type of mouse tissue, came under scrutiny due to irregularities, including images resembling those used in her doctoral dissertation.

Obokata and her co-authors later retracted the papers that were published in the journal Nature in late January.

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