‘Science’ planned to release corrections to two of President Tessier-Lavigne’s papers in 2015

Nov. 30, 2022, 11:49 a.m.

Science was ready to print corrections to two of Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s papers in 2015, Holden Thorp, the journal’s editor in chief, confirmed in a statement to The Daily.

Thorp did not explain why the corrections to the two papers for which Tessier-Lavigne was lead author were not ultimately published, nor why the prestigious journal did not respond to multiple PubPeer commenters asking the publication to investigate.

Issues in the papers were first reported Tuesday in a Daily article that revealed seven years of unreported scientific misconduct allegations against the University president’s research. Four of Tessier-Lavigne’s papers contained “serious problems,” according to experts contacted by The Daily, including the two published in Science.

Thorp’s statement, which was later shared to Science’s three million Twitter followers, said that “In reviewing records following a news story published in The Stanford Daily, it is clear that in October 2015, Marc Tessier-Lavigne became aware of issues with images in two Science studies on which he was co-author published in February 2001 and March 2001, contacted Science, and agreed to follow up.”

Thorp continued, “Working with Science editorial, Tessier-Lavigne prepared Errata for both papers. However, due to an error on our part, Science never posted these Errata. We regret this error [and] apologize to the scientific community.”

Errata is the official term used by the journal to refer to corrections affixed to papers containing errors. According to the journal’s editorial policies, those corrections are meant to be published immediately online and a notice of correction is run in the next print edition of the publication.

Since publication of the original article, Thorp has not responded to questions from The Daily about whether he has been in contact with Tessier-Lavigne since the article was published, how and why the issues were raised to Science and whether Tessier-Lavigne provided original data.

The statement also does not address the original errors and to what extent Science has investigated them. Thorp did not say who was responsible, how the errors may have occurred or whether Tessier-Lavigne informed the journal of how he was made aware of the errors in the first place. Nor does the statement explain what happened to the corrections.

The Daily has requested copies of the proposed corrections from both Tessier-Lavigne and Science.

Thorp’s statement corroborates an account given by University spokesperson Dee Mostofi Monday, which stated Tessier-Lavigne had voluntarily reported errors to Science in late 2015 while he was being considered for the position of University president. Tessier-Lavigne was appointed to the role in early 2016.

It is unclear whether the Board of Trustees, which confirmed it is now opening its own investigation into the research Tuesday night, was informed of the errors at the time, and Tessier-Lavigne and the University have not responded to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

Thorp said Science “will be sharing our next steps as they relate to these two papers as soon as possible.”

Thorp’s statement follows an announcement from The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Journal that it is investigating a 2008 paper on which Tessier-Lavigne is listed as a co-author.

Facundo Batista, the editor in chief of EMBO, wrote in an email to The Daily that the journal would issue any necessary “followups” in accordance with its own misconduct guidelines.

Cell, another prominent science journal that published a paper co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne’s containing alleged manipulation, did not respond to a request for comment.

The University said the errors in Science and Cell do not affect the results of the paper. Experts contested this.

The Daily has reached out to the University for comment on the statement from Science.

Theo Baker is the Vol. 263 Spotlight Investigations Editor. A frosh from Washington, D.C., he is the youngest ever recipient of a George Polk Award. Contact [email protected] for encrypted email. Find him on Twitter @tab_delete.

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