Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne has resigned after finding serious flaws in a series of research papers under his supervision.
Stanford previously announced an investigation into Tessier-Lavigne – described by the school as a ‘world leader in the study of brain development and repair’ – over allegations of scientific misconduct.
After months of scrutiny, Tessier-Lavigne will step down as president effective Aug. 31, according to a university release.
Posts on an online forum challenged the authenticity of several images published in papers co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne, who took office in 2016.
However, a panel of experts concluded that Tessier-Lavigne was not involved in any fraud and found no evidence that she was aware of the problem before the disclosure.
After stepping down from the presidency, he will remain at the university as a professor of biology.
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne resigns after allegations his co-author doctored data and images
Initially, a Stanford spokesperson rejected the California school’s paper story, insisting that Tessier-Lavigne was ‘not involved in any way in the generation or presentation of the panel’ on the two papers deemed problematic, of which there were four.
The review paints a portrait of a scientist who co-authored papers with ‘serious errors’ and failed on multiple occasions to ‘decisively and clearly correct errors’ when concerns were raised.
Tessier-Lavigne said today she would ask for three papers to be withdrawn and two to be amended.
A panel of distinguished scientists, appointed by a special committee of the board of trustees of the private university, examined a dozen of the more than 200 papers published during his career.
Tessier-Lavigne will resign ‘in light of the report and its impact on her ability to lead Stanford,’ according to Jerry Young, chair of the Stanford Board of Trustees.
In a statement, he said: ‘In light of the report and its impact on Stanford’s ability to lead, the board has decided to accept President Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation and agrees with her that it is in the best interest of the university.
He will continue in his position as a tenured professor in the Department of Biology.’
Former Dean of Humanities Richard Salar will serve as interim president, the board announced.
In a statement, Tessier-Lavigne said: ‘The panel did not find that I engaged in research misconduct with respect to the twelve papers reviewed, nor did it find that I had knowledge of or was reckless about research misconduct in my lab.
‘As I have emphasized, I have never submitted a scientific paper without firmly believing that the data were presented correctly and accurately. Today’s report supports that statement.
‘Although the report clearly refutes the allegations of fraud and misconduct leveled against me, for the good of the university, I have decided to step down as president with effect from August 31.’
He continued: ‘I should have been more diligent in seeking corrections.
‘The panel’s review also identified examples of research data manipulation by others in my lab.
‘Although I was not aware of these matters, I want to make it clear that I take responsibility for the work of my lab members.’
Tessier-Lavigne had a profitable tenure at the school, which added $12.1 billion to its endowment and reversed an unpopular plan to eliminate 11 of its sports teams.
The latest update comes after posts on an online forum challenged the authenticity of the paper co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne.
The postings were reported by the university’s Stanford Daily newspaper on Tuesday — along with several other allegations of suspected manipulation of Tessier-Lavigne’s work.
Tessier-Lavigne, described by Stanford as a ‘world leader in the study of brain development and repair’, had a lucrative tenure at the school, adding $12.1 billion to its endowment and reversing an unpopular plan to eliminate 11 of its sports teams.
After the allegations aired, prominent science research publisher the Journal of the European Microbiology Organization said it would investigate the staff, saying it was ‘looking into’ inconsistencies in a research paper written in 2018.
Initially, a Stanford spokesperson denied the school’s paper story, insisting that Tessier-Lavigne ‘was in no way involved in the generation or presentation of the panels questioned in two of the four papers cited above’.
A prominent biologist familiar with Tessier-Lavigne’s work said several scientific papers authored by the president contained ‘many visible errors’ and the content was ‘indicative of an intent to mislead’.
Elizabeth Bick, a nationally recognized expert on image analysis and research integrity, told the East Bay Times in analyzing the paper that ‘one can’t really say that all the problems we found are indicative of misconduct.’
Elizabeth Bick, a prominent biologist familiar with Tessier-Lavigne’s work, has since said that several of the president’s scientific papers contain “many glaring errors” and content “indicative of misleading intent.”
Bic Daily said on Tuesday that it ‘disagrees with the statement that these factors had no effect on the data or results.’ The school will return that statement and open their own investigation later that day
A panel of eminent scientists, appointed by a special committee of the private university’s board of trustees, examined a dozen of the more than 200 papers published during his career.
He added: ‘But there are certainly problems – and they are real,’
Experts who reviewed Tessier-Lavin’s research at The Daily’s request agreed with Bick’s analysis, noting that all three papers in the prominent research journal Science and Nature had ‘serious problems’.
Scientific misconduct researchers who reviewed the papers, The Daily claimed, had ‘photoshopped’ the images, as well as manipulated the data.
Tessier-Lavigne, a native of Ontario, Canada, spent her early career researching degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s before transitioning into a more administrative role.
Prior to his tenure at Stanford, he served as president of Rockefeller University in New York City.
Competitive research was conducted prior to his 2016 appointment to Stanford from New York, much of which focused on research into the development of neural connections in the brain.
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