Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced his resignation Wednesday following an independent review that found “serious flaws” and manipulated data in 12 scientific papers of which he was either principal or co-author.
Of the five papers Tessier-Lavigne was the principal author, the Stanford special committee leading the investigation found “serious flaws in the presentation of research data,” and at least four papers contained “manipulation of research data by others” according to their report. The panel did concede that the former president did not have actual knowledge of the data’s manipulation.
Nevertheless, research conducted in Genentech, of which Tessier-Lavigne was an executive, culminated in publicized work in 2009 that the committee’s scientific panel found “contained various errors and shortcomings.” When the panel raised these mistakes to Tessier-Lavigne on multiple occasions, the committee found that he failed to adequately correct them.
“I agree that in some instances I should have been more diligent when seeking corrections, and I regret that I was not,” said Tessier-Lavigne in a statement. “The Panel’s review also identified instances of manipulation of research data by others in my lab. Although I was unaware of these issues, I want to be clear that I take responsibility for the work of my lab members.”
Tessier-Lavigne is seeking timely corrections of the five papers for which he is the principal author, though this won’t be his first attempt. One of his paper’s publications, Cell, decided against publishing a correction he previously pointed out, and Science failed to publish corrections that were agreed upon, according to a statement Tessier-Lavigne put out about his five papers.
The committee concluded he was not guilty of fraud or misconduct related to Alzheimer’s research that the Stanford Daily first alleged Tessier-Lavigne had committed in February. Ultimately, the driving force behind Tessier-Lavigne’s decision to step down was his lack of initiative to correct mistakes he was made aware of and failures in his lab’s oversight and management practices.
The college newspaper played a prominent role in sparking the months-long independent investigation into Tessier-Lavigne’s research after a prominent journal confirmed the president’s work contained “multiple altered images.” Skepticism over Tessier-Lavigne’s work began surfacing years ago on PubPeer, an online forum to discuss publicized research.
Tessier-Lavigne will step down in August. However, he will remain at the university as a professor of biology. He will continue his scientific research on brain development and neurodegeneration.
Stanford named professor of European studies Richard Saller interim president beginning Sept. 1.