Issues with Five Papers and Planned Actions
July 19, 2023
Based on information I learned during the course of the Special Committee’s review, I have concluded it is necessary to take the corrective actions described below with respect to five papers on which I am a primary author. It is important to emphasize that the Scientific Panel did not find evidence that I engaged in any research misconduct with respect to these five papers, that I had knowledge of or was reckless regarding research misconduct in my lab, or that it would have been reasonable to expect me to detect the research misconduct of others that necessitate these corrective actions.
Cell (1999), Science Binding (2001), and Science Silencing (2001)
Although many results in these papers have been corroborated, questions about multiple images in these papers, all generated by the same scientist in my lab, surfaced years ago. The Panel’s report confirms that when I became aware of them and until recently, I “sincerely held the belief” that the issues did not affect the results. The Panel also confirms that I took steps to correct the issues and states that I did “an able job” initially with the journals. Based on information available at the time, Cell declined to publish a correction, stating a correction was “not necessary or appropriate.” Science agreed to publish corrections that I submitted, but then failed to do so. Nonetheless, I agree with the Panel that I was “independently responsible for ensuring that the corrections were made, despite the journal also failing to discharge its own responsibility in this regard.” I also agree with the Panel’s more general point that timely correction of errors is important, even if one believes the errors are benign, and that I should have done better in this regard with Science.
The Panel’s investigation has further revealed that the scientist who generated the images engaged in serious data manipulation at the time these papers were published more than twenty years ago. The Panel’s report corroborates that I had no knowledge of that individual’s manipulation of data at the time of publication and, in fact, I only learned of it during the Panel’s review. Specifically, the Panel’s report states that “the Panel has no reason to believe that Dr. Tessier-Lavigne knew about these instances of research data manipulation in the three papers contemporaneous with their occurrence. Indeed, it would not be reasonable to expect Dr. Tessier-Lavigne to have identified these instances of research data manipulation prior to or at the time of the respective papers’ publications.” Nevertheless, based on this new information, it is clear these papers must be retracted, and I intend to do so as quickly as possible.
Importantly, the Panel found that allegations of fraud regarding this paper are “not accurate.”
That said, while most aspects of this paper have withstood the test of time, a number of its key findings required revision, which we addressed through subsequent publications. In addition, multiple anomalies in the paper have come to light in the past several months, and the investigation has uncovered certain inconsistent experimental results prior to publication. It is important to emphasize that I informed the Panel that I was unaware of these new issues prior to publication, and the Panel found no evidence to suggest otherwise. The Panel also found that the approach of publishing follow-on papers was “within the boundaries of normal scientific practice,” but that it was “suboptimal” not to additionally retract or directly correct the paper.
I agree with the Panel that it is important to issue a robust correction in Nature both to address the recently discovered anomalies and to explicitly spell out the revisions to certain key findings in the paper that we presented in subsequent papers but that would not necessarily be apparent to all readers of the Nature paper. I intend to issue such a correction as soon as possible.
Issues with several figures in this paper were raised last December, which is when I first learned of them. The Panel found no evidence that I knew nor should reasonably have known of these issues. Two of the figures that have been questioned were generated in my laboratory. At least one of them shows evidence of manipulation of research data. Although one of my coauthors located primary data that confirms the result presented in the figure, it nevertheless requires a thorough correction. I am already in touch with the journal about this.