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Stanford President Addresses Charges in Letter to Faculty

December 6, 2022

In a letter to faculty, Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne on Monday addressed the allegations that surfaced last week regarding research misconduct in scientific papers he co-authored.

“Three papers being questioned are ones on which I am the senior author: a 1999 Cell paper, and two papers published in Science in 2001. I previously corresponded extensively with the editors at both journals regarding concerns that were raised about multiple images in these papers. In addition, new concerns recently have been raised about another image in one of the Science papers and one in the Cell paper, and I have been in communication with the editors of both journals to determine the appropriate next steps,” he wrote.

Stanford’s Board of Trustees formed a committee to investigate the matter following media reports that the European Molecular Biology Organization Journal had launched a review of a 2008 paper Tessier-Lavigne co-authored due to allegations that his published research included manipulated images, which ultimately skewed the findings.

“In initiating this review, I want to assure the Stanford community that appropriate attention and resources are being devoted to this matter. The special committee will conduct its work with all deliberate speed. The special committee will engage expert outside advisors to assist with the fact gathering and assessment,” Stanford board chair Jerry Yang announced last week.

In his letter to faculty, Tessier-Lavigne, a neuroscientist, noted that he was the co-author of other papers under review.

“The studies that have been flagged were led by various collaborators who were the senior authors on the papers, and the specific images that are being queried are from collaborators’ laboratories,” he wrote.

“I want to be clear that I have never submitted a paper without firmly believing that the data were correct and accurately presented. I also want to be clear that I take responsibility for any concerns that arise with respect to any work with which I have been involved. I trust that a thorough examination will fully address the concerns that have been raised and will affirm my commitment to the highest standards of scientific integrity.”

Tessier-Lavigne has served as Stanford’s president since 2016 and was previously a research executive of the biotechnology company Genentech and president of the Rockefeller University.

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