Stanford president resigns due to research fraud allegations

The president of Stanford University, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, has now resigned because of allegations of fraud and data manipulation in papers published by him and others.

The report finds that overall Tessier-Lavigne “did not have actual knowledge of any manipulation of research data” and “was not reckless in failing to identify” the problems in the papers. Yet it concludes that he did not respond adequately when concerns were raised about the papers on PubPeer or by a colleague at four different points over 2 decades—most recently in March 2021. For example, it chides him for failing to follow up when Science did not publish the corrections he submitted.

The report also faults Tessier-Lavigne for his “suboptimal” decision not to correct or retract the 2009 Nature paper, despite “vigorous discussions” about what to do; instead, he and colleagues published follow-up papers revising the findings. Without “an appropriate appetite” for corrections, “the often-claimed self-correcting nature of the scientific process will not occur,” the report says.

In other words, he too often looked the other way when associates were sloppy or were found to have faked data.

This story is an addendum to one I posted yesterday, where a researcher in 2020 had found 1 in 4 clinical trials to be either unreliable or fraudulent. His revelation however was ignored by the medical community, just as Tessier-Lavigne ignored fraud or sloppiness at his own lab.

Nor has anything really changed in the medical research community. Though Tessier-Lavigne has stepped down, the actual perpetrators of the fraud are facing no punishment.

Despite the findings of data manipulation, the report does not assign responsibility to any specific members of Tessier-Lavigne’s lab or determine whether the data manipulation fit the federal definition of research misconduct, “fabrication, falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism.” Whether the findings should be reported to the federal Office of Research Integrity will be up to Stanford, Filip says.

It appears we can trust little from the modern medical research community. There is certainly good work being done, but telling the difference between the good and the bad is now very difficult, if not impossible.