Stanford President Says He'll Quit, Retract Research

Investigation uncovered 'errors and shortcomings' in Marc Tessier-Lavigne's work
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2023 2:25 PM CDT
Stanford President Says He'll Quit, Retract Research
Marc Tessier-Lavigne is seen in this Feb. 2, 2016 photo released by Stanford University.   (Linda A. Cicero/ Stanford News Service via AP)

After a panel of scientists released their review of Marc Tessier-Lavigne's scientific research Wednesday, the neuroscientist agreed to retract three papers and said he would resign as president of Stanford University. The panel said it found "serious flaws" with the research data in five papers that listed Tessier-Lavigne as lead author, though its eight-month investigation found no evidence that Tessier-Lavigne personally manipulated data or engaged in other misconduct, the Wall Street Journal reports. The AP reports that he was cleared of the most serious allegations, "that a 2009 paper published in the scientific journal Nature was the subject of a fraud investigation and that fraud was found."

The panel determined that no fraud investigation had occurred, but it found that the paper, on a model of neurodegeneration, contained "various errors and shortcomings" and "fell below accepted scientific practices." When it was published, Tessier-Lavigne said it turned "our current understanding of Alzheimer's on its head," though it never led to a treatment. In a statement, Tessier-Lavigne said he had "never submitted a scientific paper without firmly believing that the data were correct and accurately presented." He said, however, that he would step down at the end of August because the report could "lead to debate about my ability to lead the university into the new academic year."

The 63-year-old, who led the university for almost seven years, said he would remain on faculty as a biology professor and continue his research. The panel also found that Tessier-Lavigne had failed to push for corrections to the scientific record involving some of his papers, including the 2009 study. The accusations involved work from before Tessier-Lavigne arrived at Stanford, but "the accusations reflected poorly on the university's integrity," the New York Times notes. The Stanford Daily student paper reports that some witnesses to alleged misconduct in labs overseen by Tessier-Lavigne didn't speak to investigators because they were told their anonymity could not be guaranteed. (More Stanford University stories.)

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