Institutions in France and Switzerland are investigating figures in several molecular biology papers, according to a joint press release published today.
Unfortunately, there’s not much more we can tell you about the investigation — the press release doesn’t specify the names of researchers, journals, or even the area within molecular biology that’s under scrutiny.
The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France will lead the inquiry, with contribution from ETH Zürich in Switzerland. Molecular biology researchers from both institutions were involved in the flagged publications, an ETH Zürich spokesperson told us.
The ETH Zürich spokesperson added:
Doubt regarding the figures featured in the publications has emerged during the correction process of these publications.
According to the released statement, the role of the investigating experts will be to “establish the facts:”
In this context, institutions have a duty to act in strict compliance with ethical standards, which do not allow any public statement to be issued prior to completion of the process in order to ensure that an in-depth analysis is carried out, in which all parties can freely express their views. In the same logic and to guarantee that the inquiry is conducted serenely, the name of the experts forming part of the commission cannot be disclosed at this stage.
After the probe is complete, the institutions will decide whether any “disciplinary measures” have to be carried out, and release the results and consequences of the investigation publicly.
A CNRS spokesperson declined to comment further.
We’ll update this story once we get more information.
This isn’t the first time the agencies have investigated the same types of allegation allegations — last year, ETH and the CNRS released the results of their probes into the work of plant biologist Olivier Voinnet, employed by both institutions. In that case, each report came to slightly different conclusions: ETH found Voinnet “breached his duty of care in the handling of figures as well as in his supervisory duties as a research director,” which did not rise to the level of scientific misconduct. CNRS, on the other hand, found evidence of breaches that amounted to scientific misconduct, and suspended him for two years.
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