STAP cells: The Riken Institute apologises but the investigation continues

Publié le : 21 March 2014

 The investigation is continuing into the publication in the Nature journal of a simple method for creating "STAP" cells (Gènéthique press review on January 27th, 2014). To clarify the situation, one of the Japanese co-authors of the study, Teruhiko Wakayama from the University of Yamanashi, asked for the study results to be removed from the publication due to data collection errors (Gènéthique press review on March 10th, 2014). Consequently, an investigation was launched.

On Friday, 14 March, the Director of the Riken Institute, Ryoji Noyori, Chemist and Nobel prize-winner, made the following statement: "We apologise for this publication in the Nature journal which has shaken the credibility of the scientific community". At the same time, he strongly criticised Dr. Haruko Obokata, the main author of the study: "an unqualified scientist who is processing a considerable amount of data in an extremely slapdash manner and with no sense of responsibility". 
Biologist, Masatoshi Takeichi, Director of the relevant section at Riken and Haruko Obokata’s line manager, stated that the final decision whether to accept or reject the publication was under investigation at the Institute but, for the time being, the ball "[was] in the Nature journal’s court because the authors’ consent had not been obtained". Dr. Haruko Obokata and two other authors, Yoshiki Sasai and Hitoshi Niwa, made the following comments in a statement published on Riken’s Internet site: "We are in the process of contacting the other authors and are considering the option of withdrawing the publication". As far as biologist Masatoshi Takeichi is concerned,” the article in question should be withdrawn". He went on to add that, "I can’t understand why such an error occurred”.

At this moment in time, Riken has not drawn any conclusions from its investigation.  According to Professor Shunsuke Ishii, one of the managers, not all of the comments generated seem to be founded. 

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