Two Tessier-Lavigne papers retracted on his final day as president

Outstanding journal Science issued retraction notices for 2 high-profile Marc Tessier-Lavigne papers right this moment, the identical day his tenure as Stanford’s eleventh president formally ends. Tessier-Lavigne, who had beforehand defended the research which have now been withdrawn, acknowledged that the analysis contained manipulated knowledge within the notices.

That is the most recent growth in a months-long saga for Tessier-Lavigne, a famend neuroscientist who has been beset by analysis misconduct allegations. A Stanford-sponsored investigation, prompted by a Day by day article final November, discovered that Tessier-Lavigne had did not appropriate the scientific file regardless of a number of alternatives over a 20-year interval and presided over labs at three totally different establishments that produced plenty of manipulated or fraudulent outcomes. On July 19, the day these findings had been launched to the general public, Tessier-Lavigne introduced his resignation.

Tessier-Lavigne will keep on to proceed analysis at Stanford, creating an uncommon state of affairs through which a newly designated tenured professor, the ex-president, should retract two research on his first day. These research symbolize solely a few of the considerations in Tessier-Lavigne’s physique of analysis. Retraction processes for a distinct paper are believed to be underway at Cell and Tessier-Lavigne has mentioned he’ll situation prolonged corrections to 2 Nature research as properly. Mark Filip, who led Stanford’s investigation, has mentioned extra investigations might come about.

In a farewell observe to the neighborhood launched Aug. 31, Tessier-Lavigne referred to as his time on the helm of Stanford “essentially the most fulfilling and rewarding expertise of my skilled profession.” He was changed on the finish of the day by interim President Richard Saller, a former Dean of Humanities and Sciences who appointed Dean of Stanford Regulation College Jenny Martinez as provost earlier this month. Jerry Yang, chair of the Stanford board, mentioned a search committee for a everlasting successor can be appointed within the fall.

Collectively, the 2 papers retracted right this moment, research about growth neurobiology that had been printed within the prestigious journal Science in 2001, accrued greater than 650 citations. In a area the place the median paper has seven citations, these numbers are vital and symbolize a few of Tessier-Lavigne’s most cited work.

When The Day by day initially requested Tessier-Lavigne questions concerning the manipulated analysis final November, Dee Mostofi, a Stanford spokesperson, responded on his behalf, arguing that the alteration did “not have an effect on the info, outcomes or interpretation of the papers.” This was broadly contested by exterior analysts, and Stanford’s investigation in the end discovered that the papers contained “underlying manipulations that had been carried out after which tried to be obscured.” The report didn’t discover that Tessier-Lavigne manipulated any knowledge himself or that he knew concerning the alterations on the time.

Tessier-Lavigne was made conscious of particular allegations within the Science papers not less than as early as 2015 and corresponded with Science about corrections. However once they weren’t printed as a result of what the journal has referred to as an error on its half, Tessier-Lavigne didn’t observe up. After The Day by day’s report in November, the papers had been issued Editorial Expressions of Concern, warning readers to be cautious whereas a ultimate consequence was decided. As of right this moment, the papers might be marked “RETRACTED” on Science’s web site.

That the retractions would coincide with Tessier-Lavigne’s ultimate day was a coincidence, mentioned Holden Thorp, editor in chief of Science. The withdrawals had been scheduled for Aug. 25 earlier than disagreements on wording brought about a delay. Certainly, not all events had been on the identical web page concerning the notices — every retraction accommodates the caveat that “Writer Elke Stein disagrees with the choice to retract the paper.”

Stein was the primary writer on each papers, which means that she would usually have carried out nearly all of the work. Tessier-Lavigne was the corresponding writer, which means he supervised and assumed final accountability for the info within the paper. A retraction could also be instigated by the authors of a paper, however it’s the editor of a journal who has ultimate discretion. In response to Thorp, Tessier-Lavigne reached out the day earlier than Stanford’s report was launched to say he would retract the papers — an motion Thorp said he would have taken regardless given the findings of the Stanford investigation. 

On one of many papers, there have been two different authors who agreed to the retraction; on the opposite, the one authors had been Tessier-Lavigne and Stein. Neither Tessier-Lavigne nor Stein responded to a request for remark.

Stein first labored with Tessier-Lavigne throughout his time as a professor on the College of California San Francisco within the late nineties earlier than relocating with him and his lab to Stanford in 2001 — the identical yr the retracted research had been printed. In response to one collaborator, some had been already suspicious of Stein; it appeared “each experiment she does works completely, each time,” mentioned the scientist, who requested anonymity for concern {of professional} repercussions about recounting their time working with Tessier-Lavigne. The colleague mentioned that one other lab engaged on netrin development analysis across the time had failed to copy components of the analysis now being retracted. 

Round that point, considerations additionally started to emerge concerning the tradition of Tessier-Lavigne’s lab, which the 2023 Stanford report mentioned “tended to reward the ‘winners’ (that’s, postdocs who might generate favorable outcomes) and marginalize or diminish the ‘losers’ (that’s, postdocs who had been unable or struggled to generate such knowledge).”

After Tessier-Lavigne went to Genentech, Stein moved to Yale, the place she was a tenure-track professor. Nonetheless, she continued to work together with him. One principal investigator who ran a lab close to Tessier-Lavigne at Genentech recalled that Stein would present up from time to time with out rationalization and introduce herself to others.

Stein didn’t get tenure at Yale, a college which requires these denied tenure to go away completely. The circumstances are unclear, however Hank Greely, the Stanford Middle for Regulation and the Biosciences director who supplied Stein an unpaid fellowship in 2018, mentioned he believed she had been denied tenure as a result of “she had solely printed two papers in 9 years.”

Scott Holley, now the chair of Yale’s Molecular, Mobile and Developmental Biology division, recalled her as “reclusive.” He mentioned he had heard about issues in a few of her work with Tessier-Lavigne within the mid-2000s, although not with any specificity.

After coming again to Stanford for her unpaid fellowship, Greely recalled making an attempt to speak Stein out of making use of for an affiliate provost for range place on the College that he didn’t assume she was certified for. (Stein’s LinkedIn means that on the time, she had not held a paying job for a number of years. It additionally prominently options one of many papers retracted right this moment.) Following that dialog, Greely mentioned he despatched an e mail to Tessier-Lavigne, who replied that she “wanted assist.” Greely instructed The Day by day that Tessier-Lavigne referred to as Stein a “deeply troubled individual.”

Since she left Stanford in 2019, it’s unclear what Stein has been doing. Her LinkedIn, the place she remains to be sometimes lively, continues to listing her as a fellow at a program that not exists. She was not a co-author on any of the opposite Tessier-Lavigne papers discovered to have contained manipulation of knowledge.