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.
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.