193 papers could be retracted: Journal consortium issues ultimatum in Fujii case

A group of editors representing nearly two dozen medical journals has issued an ultimatum of sorts to officials at seven Japanese institutions that once employed Yoshitaka Fujii: Validate the papers of the disgraced anesthesiologist or they will be retracted.

Fujii, as we have reported, was fired by Toho University in late February, putatively for failing to obtain ethics approval for a handful of his studies. That much may be true, but the integrity of his data has been in question for more than a decade. At the time of his dismissal, journal editors expressed concern that the university would not pursue an inquiry into Fujii’s data.

Last month, the journal Anaesthesia published a statistical analysis of Fujii’s research bya UK anesthesiologist named John Carlisle which cast serious doubt on the veracity of the studies.

The joint letter forces the question. Here’s a copy of the first page and second page, which together basically say it all. A quote:

The undersigned Editors-in-Chief intend to retract manuscripts from their respective journals based on the evidence of fraud demonstrated in the analysis by Carlisle. However, prior to any retraction we wish to offer your institution the opportunity to attest to the integrity of any manuscript conducted under the auspices of your institution, as listed in Appendix 2.

For each study listed in Appendix 2 we ask your institution to state the following:
1. that the study occurred as represented in the paper;
2. that you have examined the original research data and have verified that the data are authentic, and;
3. that appropriate research ethical approval for the study was obtained.

The editors give the institutions a deadline of June 30.

Steven Shafer, the editor in chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia, which published 24 of Fujii’s papers — as well as a 2000 letter effectively accusing the researcher of cooking his results — who is leading the journals’ action, said the editors want to give the Japanese institutions time to analyze the articles.

We need to give institutions time to respond. Due process requires it. However, 193 papers are now impugned, and may be retracted.

Needless to say, should all 193 papers fall, Fujii would hold the record for most retractions by a single author — a mark currently safely in the hands of another anesthesiologist, Joachim Boldt, of Germany, with about 90.

8 thoughts on “193 papers could be retracted: Journal consortium issues ultimatum in Fujii case”

  1. Wow. Eventually even science cleans itself up. But why did it take 12 years to sort it out?

    At least the journals are taking some responsibility now. In particular, Shafer concludes in his March editorial (see http://publicationethics.org/files/u7140/FujiiStatementOfConcern.pdf)

    ‘Following publication of the Letter to the Editor from Kranke and colleagues in April 2000, along with a non-specific response from Dr. Fujii, there was no follow-up on the allegation of data manipulation. There was no request for an institutional review of Dr. Fujii’s research. Additionally, Anesthesia & Analgesia published 11 additional manuscripts by Dr. Fujii following the 2000 allegations of research fraud…. The Journal’s response to the allegations of research fraud in the 2000 Letter to the Editor by Kranke and colleagues was inadequate. The subsequent submissions to the Journal by Dr. Fujii should not have been published without first vetting the allegations of fraud. I apologize to our readers, and the patients we serve, for the manner in which the allegations of fraud were handled by Anesthesia & Analgesia.’

    Nature and other basic science journals could learn a lot from this…

    1. Strange for a journal to publish such a direct letter to the editor and not take any action afterwards. If the editor doesn’t want to follow something like that, he/she could simply not publish the letter. But publishing such a letter and not clarifying the question afterwards is astonishing. Thankfully, it seems to me the fraud scandals of the last decade have made it less likely that something like this will pass through again.

      They should have apologized to Kranke et al as well. It’s not easy to leave your cozy cover and take such a stand. No action after such a letter made Kranke et al look like disgruntled competitors and fools.

  2. According to Microsoft Academic Search
    Fujii has been cited 5,735 times! Y. Fujii has collaborated with 512 co-authors from 1991 to 2011; Cited by 18519 authors!

    What the implications of retracting 193 (conservatively) papers could be?

    Just one example:
    Countless number of practitioners and decision-makers around the world try to adhere to Evidence-Based Practice, which is based on evidence, which is based on systematic reviews, which are based on peer reviewed publications (like Fujii’s papers).

    Hardly anyone could calculate the TOTAL LOSS around the world due to incorrect decisions which were made based on Fujii’s fraudulent publications.


    Imagine that the Ministries of Health of, say, 190 countries around the world ask the publishers to cover the losses that these countries have incurred during the last two decades due to wrong decisions based on Fujii’s papers.

    Academic publishing has the privilege of self-regulating and self-investigating, but HAS ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY. No wonder that we see what we do see (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).

    It’s time for a change!


  3. Misconduct/fraud of such astronomic proportions is possible ONLY because at present there are NO consequences for the authors who commit it and for the editors/publishers/institutions that turn a blind eye, or even actively do anything to cover up the misconduct/fraud.

    In clear case of plagiarism (verbatim text), featured on RW http://www.retractionwatch.com/2012/03/12/how-does-it-feel-to-have-your-scientific-paper-plagiarized-and-what-can-you-do-about-it/
    the author “has acknowledged these problems”
    the Editor-in-Chief “offered him the opportunity to write an erratum”

    Sorry, Mr. Editor-in-Chief, but this is NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
    Your journal – JCMC – is COPE member, and your publisher – Springer – also is COPE member, so please ADHERE to COPE Guidelines and do the right thing!


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