Letter to faculty regarding scientific papers

Dear faculty colleagues,

I am writing to address questions raised in the past week about several scientific papers I coauthored that have been the subject of recent news reports.

You may have seen that the Board of Trustees of the University has named a special committee to assess these concerns. Like all faculty members, I am subject to university policies, and when issues of scientific concern like this are raised, it is typical for the university to launch a review. The review is being overseen directly by the Board of Trustees, without my involvement other than my full cooperation. As I have previously stated, I welcome this review, so that light can be shed in full on these matters.

While I am usually in contact with you in my role as university president, I am writing here first and foremost in my capacity as a scientist. As a scientist, I am dedicated to the rigorous pursuit of the truth. The integrity of my work is of paramount importance to me, and I take any concerns that are expressed very seriously.

Out of deference to and respect for the special committee’s review, at this time, I am sharing just a few salient points.

Three papers being questioned are ones on which I am the senior author: a 1999 Cell paper, and two papers published in Science in 2001. I previously corresponded extensively with the editors at both journals regarding concerns that were raised about multiple images in these papers. In addition, new concerns recently have been raised about another image in one of the Science papers and one in the Cell paper, and I have been in communication with the editors of both journals to determine the appropriate next steps.

In addition to these senior-authorship papers, questions have been raised about other papers on which I am a co-author. The studies that have been flagged were led by various collaborators who were the senior authors on the papers, and the specific images that are being queried are from collaborators’ laboratories.

I want to be clear that I have never submitted a paper without firmly believing that the data were correct and accurately presented. I also want to be clear that I take responsibility for any concerns that arise with respect to any work with which I have been involved. I trust that a thorough examination will fully address the concerns that have been raised and will affirm my commitment to the highest standards of scientific integrity.

In closing, I regret the impact these events are having on the university. I thank you in advance for your patience while I and, separately, the special committee work through the next steps.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne