Riken Institute has announced that it will not reinvestigate the study on STAP cells led by one of their own researchers. The controversial study by stem-cell scientist Haruko Obokata has brought the government-funded institute under fire for the apparent mistakes Obokata made in coming out with the results, prompting Riken to charge Obokata as guilty of research misconduct.
Apart from the charge, the institute has also withdrawn a paper Obokata wrote for British Journal Nature in light of the issue. Riken President Ryoji Noyori issued the statement on Obokata after the careful investigation of an in-house panel in the institute. “Based on its report, we have decided not to conduct a reinvestigation, have notified (Obokata) of our conclusion and have recommended one of the papers in question be withdrawn,” he said. The 21-page report described a reinvestigation as unnecessary and accused Obokata to have committed errors with “malicious intent” which could be proved with the ‘intentionality” of the acts. But Obokata insists that her conclusions are valid and the mistakes committed were not thought of. Her lawyer, Hideo Miki, quoted Obokata, who was disappointed with the results of the investigative panel, to have told her that “she was anxious to complete the papers due to concern that someone could overtake her and make a new discovery unless she publishes it quickly.”
While Miki has not disclosed their next steps for Obokata’s case, Riken director for compliance Minoru Yonekura informed reporters that a disciplinary committee has already met to discuss possible sanctions for Obokata and other researchers involved in the study. Penalties may vary from pay cuts, suspension of work, forced resignation and even a disciplinary discharge. The punishment may also affect other key researchers in the Institue including Deputy Director for the Center for Developmental Biology, Yoshiki Sasai, who co-wrote the paper with Obokata.
[via The Japan Times]