Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Weizmann bans grad students from researcher’s lab over “serious misconduct”

with 2 comments

Rony Seger

The Weizmann Institute in Israel has barred a biologist from mentoring graduate students, after an investigation uncovered ” a case of serious misconduct that included manipulation of data.”

In a letter posted on PubPeer, President Daniel Zajfman describes some of the disciplinary measures taken against an unnamed scientist, including also retracting or correcting all affected papers. Michal Neeman, vice president of The Weizmann Institute of Science, confirmed to us that the letter describes Rony Seger, a molecular biologist who has already retracted 11 papers.

Neeman told us the investigation was unable to determine who was responsible for the manipulations, but as the head of his lab, Seger was ultimately accountable:

We don’t know who has done it. This was not clear at the end of the investigation. As [principal investigator], it’s clearly his responsibility.

That’s why the institute decided to bar Seger from mentoring graduate students in the future, Neeman explained:

[A] lab where such things can occur frequently is not the correct environment to teach future generations.

Seger remains at Weizmann, and is working with a technician to replicate his previous work, said Neeman — again, without graduate students, since they should work towards new discoveries, not reviewing old papers.

Neeman said she wasn’t sure how many additional papers would be corrected or retracted:

[Seger] firmly insists that all the findings were repeated multiple times, he stated that he reviewed all the original data when it was collected, and is certain that the conclusions of the manuscripts are correct.

Once Seger has reviewed his record, Neeman said his position at the institute will remain in place:

Sure, unless another decision is made at that time. But for now, yes.

According to Neeman, his other sanctions included:

1. Stepping down from current administrative roles at Weizmann  (he was department head)
2. Monitoring of preparation of figures for publications
3. Disclosure of manipulated publications (and their retraction or correction) to the relevant funding agencies
4. Disclosure of the case to the Weizmann Scientific Academic Advisory Committee

We contacted Seger, and will update if he responds.

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Written by Alison McCook

July 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Comments
  • rfg July 19, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Great letter.

    This sentence stood out:

    “There are, as we know, many pitfalls in this process, and while we acknowledge that despite the best efforts, un-intentional mistakes could occur, ethical considerations requires that data not be deliberately manipulated, beautified, or fabricated so that the publication of these data can be understood by scientists, all over the world, and taken at face value.”

  • Morty July 19, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    “Seger remains at Weizmann, and is working with a technician to replicate his previous work, said Neeman — again, without graduate students, since they should work towards new discoveries, not reviewing old papers.”
    Sure they will replicate everything!
    Let the fox mind the henhouse or let Trump run the USA.
    It is bizarre!

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