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.

The results of one in four medical clinical trials are probably fraudulent or unreliable

In 2020 a researcher in Great Britain decided to analyze the raw data used by 500 medical clinical trials, and found that one in four contained fraudulent or unreliable data.

Carlisle, an anaesthetist who works for England’s National Health Service, is renowned for his ability to spot dodgy data in medical trials. He is also an editor at the journal Anaesthesia, and in 2017, he decided to scour all the manuscripts he handled that reported a randomized controlled trial (RCT) — the gold standard of medical research. Over three years, he scrutinized more than 500 studies.

For more than 150 trials, Carlisle got access to anonymized individual participant data (IPD). By studying the IPD spreadsheets, he judged that 44% of these trials contained at least some flawed data: impossible statistics, incorrect calculations or duplicated numbers or figures, for instance. And 26% of the papers had problems that were so widespread that the trial was impossible to trust, he judged — either because the authors were incompetent, or because they had faked the data.

Carlisle called these ‘zombie’ trials because they had the semblance of real research, but closer scrutiny showed they were actually hollow shells, masquerading as reliable information. Even he was surprised by their prevalence. “I anticipated maybe one in ten,” he says.

There is the real story, however.

Carlisle rejected every zombie trial, but by now, almost three years later, most have been published in other journals — sometimes with different data to those submitted with the manuscript he had seen. He is writing to journal editors to alert them, but expects that little will be done.

In other words, the peer-review medical community continues to allow fake research to be published, even when it has been warned that research is fake.

But of course, we must trust everything they tell us. They are SCIENTISTS, and we must “follow the SCIENCE!”