Former Tokyo Tech materials researcher sanctioned after bringing forward evidence of data fabrication
A materials researcher faced three months without salary, retired from his research position and may have to return a portion of a grant worth $1 million US as punishment after a postdoc in his lab was caught fabricating data.
Seizo Miyata, formerly a materials researcher at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, headed a group that worked on carbon alloy catalysts. Last year, Miyata told Retraction Watch, he found evidence that postdoc Wu Libin had fabricated data.
Reached by Retraction Watch by phone, Miyata didn’t say who uncovered the evidence, nor how, but when he confronted Libin, the postdoc confessed. Miyata said he alerted
Texas Tokyo Tech administrators last year, and requested the retraction of “Preparation of carbon-based catalysts for PEFC cathodes from aromatic polyamide with Fe compound,” which appeared in Applied Catalysis A: General in July 2011. That retraction notice reads:
This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy ).
This article has been retracted at the request of the Authors.
The authors have stated that the manuscript contains fictitious data. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.
None of the editors of Applied Catalysis A: General responded to our requests for comment, but Lily Khidr, the journal’s publisher, referred us to the authors “regarding the details of their misconduct.”
The university’s press office sent us a link to a press release in Japanese, but would not answer further questions. (As always, we welcome help from Retraction Watch readers who can help translate.)
The mention of “fictitious data” in the notice hints at the fact that Tokyo Tech officials concluded that Libin had indeed fabricated data in Miyaka’s lab starting in July 2009. Libin was dismissed in March of this year, and we haven’t been able to locate him.
But the university also suspended Miyata and an associate researcher he managed, Masa-aki Kakimoto, for three months without pay.
Miyata told Retraction Watch that he managed associate researchers such as Kakimoto, who in turn managed postdocs such as Libin. He left day-to-day operations to his underlings.
I didn’t know exactly what they were doing in the lab, how they were producing data. I visit only once a week to meet with scientists.
Miyata said he stepped down to save the research group from more fallout:
Even though I didn’t know exactly what happened, I was head of that project that is why I have to take responsibility to resign.
Miyata is a busy researcher — see his CV in the middle of this document — with part-time appointments at Waseda University and Keio University.
Miyata said that
Texas Tokyo Tech sent him a letter suggesting he may have to give back part of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) grant, worth $1 million US, used in the project. Miyata, now a researcher at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, told Retraction Watch:
I have no right to spend any money, I am just leader of the project, but all the money sent to the president to
TexasTokyo Tech and he spent the money. If they charge, I’m planning to sue at court.