Haruko Obokata, lead researcher in a paper which the Riken Center for Development Biology had initially withdrawn its support and has now been declared by the Japanese government-funded science institution as falsified, is willing to fight the decision that resulted from their investigations. Obokata, author of the paper and who is now primarily being held responsible for the alleged misconduct, says that she is rejecting the conclusion made by Riken, saying that there had been no such misconduct.
The stage is set right now in this running story for an appeal from Obokata’s end. “I cannot accept the one-sided conclusion that there was falsification and fabrication regarding unintentional mistakes, which would exclude them from the definition of research misconduct according to (Riken’s) regulations,” Obokata said in a statement that was published through her lawyer. Her lawyer also said that Obokata intends to appeal the committee’s conclusions by April 9. She is also considering airing her side to the media via a news conference. According to procedure, Riken will make a final decision on the issue after hearing Obokata’s appeal. If the institute then concludes that misconduct had occurred, it will recommend that the authors retract the papers and go on to determine the punishment of those it deems responsible for the misconduct.
Riken’s investigative committee had already released its final report on Tuesday. The target of the investigation was a pair of papers published in January, where Obokata was the lead author of both papers. The published papers touted a groundbreaking technique for producing stem cells through a phenomenon called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP. The investigative report found against Obokata, saying that there were similarities between images used in the papers and those in Obokata’s 2011 doctoral dissertation. The panel said that this was intentional fabrication. The panel also pointed to what it alleges as a falsified an image showing genetic analysis by cutting and pasting to manipulate the results of Obakata’s experiment.
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