July 6, 2022

ECHOES OF HWANG IN POSSIBLE JAPANESE FRAUD

The leading journal Nature is getting abundant experience in dealing with scientific fraud nowadays. Hard on the heels of an investigation into the cloning research of disgraced Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk, Nature has discovered that several papers from a Japanese laboratory were probably faked.

The problem came to light last year when the RNA Society of Japan asked Tokyo University to investigate a dozen papers from a lab run by biochemist Kazumari Taira, following complaints from other researchers. Taira and his co-author Hiroaki Kawasaki were unable to supply some data — because of bad record-keeping and computer failure, Taira said. And then it appears that Kawasaki faked the data which he did supply. This was detected because he allegedly used software which was not available in 2003 when the experiment was conducted.

Now the university has decided that there is a "high possibility" that a dozen papers on RNA technology from Taira’s lab have been faked. According to a March 29 statement, the papers had "no reproducibility and no credibility". Taira has already asked that five of his papers be retracted, although Kawasaki has refused to do so. A university committee is to submit a report on the scandal this week.