The Japanese government has asked the Riken Center for Developmental Biology to closely look into the issue of errors in the supposedly groundbreaking research paper on “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency,” or STAP cells. This comes after one of the authors of the study said they want it to be withdrawn until further research confirms its credibility.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Riken has reported to them that they are conducting a thorough investigation into it, inviting both local and international experts to take a look into it. He also encouraged the institute to hold a press conference so they can properly explain the process of the investigation as well as the details of the study that are under question. But Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Hakubun Shimomura, said that he is hoping that after this “objective probe” is finished, they will be able to resubmit the paper to the science journal, Nature.
Riken released a statement on Tuesday saying the study might be withdrawn due to questions on its reliability and research ethics. While they still believe that the “crux of the paper remains unwavering”, they are taking seriously the allegations made by certain netizens that the study contains errors, including images, anomalous lines in the DNA fragments and a section that is almost identical with another paper. They are expected to reveal the interim results of their investigation by Wednesday. University of Yamanashi professor Teruhiko Wakayama said on Monday, “It’s better to retract it once and submit it again after making sure that the data is all correct and it won’t be criticized by anyone.” But one of the 14 people who published it in the journal last January, Charles Vacanti of Harvard Medical School, said that although some mistakes were made, he sees no reason why they should retract the paper as these errors did not affect the final conclusion of the study.