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Todai professors accused of falsifying research data

by

Staff Writer

The University of Tokyo revealed Tuesday it has found misconduct involving five papers supervised and co-authored by two researchers at its Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (IMCB), saying the papers contained fabrications and falsifications of data and images.

The panel at the nation’s leading university, known as Todai, said professor Yoshinori Watanabe, who supervised and co-authored the papers, and Yuji Tanno, who co-wrote one of the five papers, were responsible for the misconduct.

The five papers were published between 2008 and 2015 in prominent journals such as Science and Nature. A university committee will advise Watanabe to either retract or amend the published papers, the panel said.

The panel plans to decide on what sort of punishment, if any, should be dispensed after completing an investigation into other papers supervised by Watanabe.

According to the panel, while Watanabe did admit errors in handling data in the papers, he denied any fabrication or falsification took place.

“It is utterly regrettable … these things should not be happening,” Hiroo Fukuda, a vice president at the university, said at a news conference. “We must think of rules or methods to prevent similar instances from happening again in the future. We have a huge responsibility.”

The university, one of the nation’s most prestigious, convened a panel Sept. 20 to probe five professors at its medical school and Watanabe at the IMCB after receiving a tip from an anonymous source pointing to data fabrication in 22 papers co-authored and supervised by the professors.

The probe, which ended on May 31, found no misconduct in the papers by the five professors at its medical school.

But, the report said, inappropriate processing of data was an everyday practice in Watanabe’s laboratory. Watanabe even instructed and taught researchers at his lab how to process data in order to enhance the findings in their papers, the report said.

As for Tanno, the report concluded he was, in part, a victim of Watanabe’s inappropriate instruction, as he had been mentored by the professor since he was a student. Tanno was an assistant professor when the misconduct took place.

Watanabe bears the lion’s share of responsibility, the report said.