University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne is under investigation for alleged research misconduct following allegations first reported in The Daily that multiple papers co-authored by the president contain altered images.
In late November, The Daily broke the news that The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Journal was reviewing a paper co-authored by Tessier-Lavigne for alleged scientific misconduct. Science misconduct investigator Elisabeth Bik and other experts also identified “serious problems” in three other papers, including two where the president was the lead author.
The University acknowledged “mistakes” in a statement to The Daily but defended the president’s role in any potential issues in a statement prior to the initial article.
Following The Daily’s article and further reporting from local and national publications, the Board of Trustees launched an investigation into Tessier-Lavigne’s research Tuesday. Stanford spokesperson Dee Mostofi said that the University will “assess the allegations presented in the Stanford Daily, consistent with its normal rigorous approach by which misconduct are reviewed and investigated.”
The allegations against the president have continued to grow: Misconduct experts have now identified at least eight papers they suspect of image alteration.
On Friday, the board announced a Special Committee charged with conducting the investigation. The committee is chaired by Carol Lam, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. The board has not responded to questions about what the full scope of its investigation will be.
Daily reporting found that one of the committee members, Felix Baker, had an $18 million investment in Tessier-Lavigne’s biotech company Denali Therapeutics. After The Daily asked the board to comment on the potential for a conflict of interest, Baker stepped down from the committee.
Prominent biologists and misconduct experts sharply criticized the structure of the University’s investigation, which is being conducted in-house by colleagues of Tessier-Lavigne who don’t have expertise in biology. Tessier-Lavigne also sits on the Board of Trustees but will not participate in the investigation.
Faculty also criticized the statement announcing the formation of the committee, which was written by the chairman of the board, for containing positive comments about Tessier-Lavigne’s “integrity and honor” alongside the announcement of an investigation charged with determining allegations about lack of research integrity.
Theo Baker is the Vol. 263 Investigations Editor. Contact tbaker 'at' stanforddaily.com. Find him on Twitter @tab_delete.