In late December, a third-party committee unveiled the results of its investigation into the STAP cell fiasco involving Haruko Obokata and other researchers at the government-backed Riken research institute. The University of Tokyo also made public the outcome of its examination of research misconduct by members of a laboratory headed by former professor Shigeaki Kato at its Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (ICMB). The two scandals symbolize the widespread existence of unethical conduct by researchers in this country. Those involved in research must do their best to prevent misconduct. For its part, the government, which spends some ¥4 trillion a year on science and technology projects, needs to create an environment conducive to the elimination of problematic behavior by researchers.
The high profile STAP cell scandal at Riken mainly evolved around Obokata, although it also highlighted organizational problems. In contrast, the scandal at IMCB involved Kato and 10 others at his lab who were involved in 33 problematic research papers. The IMCB scandal can be deemed even more serious given its size. It's likely that Riken and IMCB cases, which happened in the field of basic biology, represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research misconduct, which takes place in many fields of science.
Strong pressure on scientists to make notable achievements — and thereby secure research funds — is fueling the misconduct. The University of Tokyo said that Kato, who had an overbearing attitude, aggressively pushed researchers over an extended period of time at his ICMB lab.