RIKEN inquiry prompted by STAP stem cell controversy generates three corrections

rikenlogo_enA review of past publications by the Japanese research institution RIKEN has produced three corrections of articles by a molecular geneticist, Haruhiko Koseki, The Scientist is reporting. The articles had appeared in Molecular and Cellular Biology between 2005 and 2010.

The review was triggered by the scandal involving Haruko Obokata, a former RIKEN scientist whose work on STAP stem cells has come under scrutiny. However, RIKEN officials said the corrections are unrelated to the Obokata case. Obokata has reportedly agreed to retract two of her articles in Nature. (RIKEN has released an English-language translation of its response to Obokata’s appeal against charges of research misconduct.)

According to The Scientist, Koseki was a member of a committee charged with investigating Obokata’s STAP results:

“The reason his papers were looked at (by somebody) is because he was a member of the investigation committee, but the papers themselves are not related at all to the Obokata issue,” RIKEN spokesperson Jens Wilkinson told The Scientist in an e-mail.

In its statement outlining these changes made by Koseki’s team, RIKEN said that the image issues did not constitute research fraud.

The three papers are

The correction notices, in order, are:

Vol. 25, no. 15, p. 6694–6706, 2005. Page 6697, Fig. 2: Panel B presented composite images. These images are delineated by the insertion of white lines in the corrected version below. Also, the bottom portion of panel D presented an image with nonuniform adjustment; it should be replaced with the original image below. These changes do not affect the conclusions of the study.


Vol. 26, no. 7, p. 2758–2771, 2006. Some figures presented composite images. These images are delineated by the insertion of white lines in the corrected versions below. These changes do not affect the conclusions of the study.

Page 2762, Fig. 2: Panels C and D should appear as below.


Page 2766, Fig. 6: Panel E should appear as below.


Page 2768, Fig. 8: Panel E should appear as below.



Vol. 31, no. 2, p. 351–364, 2011. Page 354, Fig. 1D: Noncontiguous portions of the same images were not clearly distinguished by gaps or lines. The corrected panel is shown below. This change does not affect the conclusions of the study.


8 thoughts on “RIKEN inquiry prompted by STAP stem cell controversy generates three corrections”

    1. I disagree, Dan. The fact that a post-publication peer review, in fact not even peer review but rather internal review, has led to three corrections in approximately one month, says volumes. I believe it says the following:
      a) RIKEN has possibly, to date, not enforced strict enough quality control measures prior to submission of papers to scientific journals, although this could be intra-laboratory weaknesses;
      b) if RIKEN, one of the most elite research institutes in the world (not only in Japan) is now starting to churn out corrections, and potentially retractions, then what would a thorough review of lower level institutes and papers reveal?

      This is a telling time for Japan. With increasing sales tax, gas prices nearing the 2008 crash levels, Shinzo Abe’s popularity sinking to its lowest level yet, a desperate grab for new funding while imposing greater austerity on the population will leave a tax-payer base that is irritated, and frustrated. Thus, to see wasted tax-payer money in science will start to have consequences if the public wakes up and starts to demand – as it should – a thorough review of the literature published by Japanese researchers, let’s say over the past decade (at least).

      1. I don’t understand why this has to be a problem for Riken or Japan as a whole. This site covers various scientific errors and misconducts from around the world and I don’t think you would note that any other country or institution in the world has a serious and widespread problem because an author issued three corrections that didn’t affect the outcome.

        This is not to say that problems don’t exist in Riken or Japan or science as a whole. But I think you’re pointing at huge red herrings by implying Riken’s problems mean there are even deeper rooted problems, either for or because of “lower level institutes” or Abe’s administration.

    2. I believe, Obakata has also been charged (in part at least) for similar “fraud”. Lanes cut and pasted. I am failing to understand how they become substantive in case of Obakata but not here !!

  1. This is interesting. One person investigating “fraud” of another is himself getting in to a similar web. To me the investigations on the STAP is more than what it appears to the eye.

  2. Too much money, too many researchers. Too much science. Diminishing returns on the utility.

    Better off having some of these people be engineers and do something useful. Not everyone needs to be a research scientist.

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