Anesthesiology society bans co-author of researcher with record-number of retractions

The Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists has permanently banned a co-author of notorious fraudster Yoshitaka Fujii, after investigating many of his publications for alleged fraud.

According to the announcement last month (in Japanese), a committee investigated approximately 40 publications by Yuhji Saitoh of Yachiyo Medical Center and Tokyo Women’s Medical University in Japan. Saitoh resigned from the society once the investigation started; after the committee found evidence of data manipulation and fraud, the society decided it would permanently ban him as a member.

Saitoh was a frequent co-author of Yoshitaka Fujii, an anesthesia researcher with a record-breaking number of retractions (more than 180). Last year, anesthesia fraud sleuth John Carlisle and a co-author analyzed Saitoh’s papers — including many he didn’t co-author with Fujii — and concluded there was very low likelihood the sampling had been conducted randomly, among other potential concerns.

On May 9, the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists issued the following statement, which we translated:

Approximately 40 publications by Mr Saito were investigated by this committee.  An editorial in anesthesiology-related journal ‘Anaesthesia’ outlining the alleged fraud cited numerous publications where it was almost certain that data manipulation and fraud had taken place.  The committee concluded that in the case of several other publications there were severe breaches of research ethics.

Carlisle’s paper focused on 32 papers co-authored by Saitoh, 23 of which did not include Fujii as an author. It concluded:

Combining the continuous and categorical probabilities of the 32 included trials, we found a very low likelihood of random sampling: p = 1.27 × 108 (1 in 100,000,000). The high probability of non-random sampling and the repetition of lines in multiple graphs suggest that further scrutiny of Saitoh’s work is warranted.

The statement from the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists concludes:

At the start of the investigation, Mr. Saito tendered his resignation from the Society, and we considered that under the regulations and Articles of Incorporation we had no choice but to accept it. However, since the results of this investigation were made known, the Society has suffered a major loss of credibility among anesthesiologists and researchers in Japan.  Mr. Saito has also had an adverse influence on the provision of safe medical care.  We consider that Mr. Saito lacks the qualities required for an anaesthetist and a researcher, and will not be considering allowing him to ever again become a member of this Society.

According to our records, Saitoh has 33 retractions, 32 of which include Fujii as a co-author. Last year, we reported on the 33rd, which occurred after the journal determined the authors had not obtained proper consent from patients.

This isn’t the society’s first fraud investigation. In 2012, it reviewed Fujii’s papers, and concluded that at least 172 out of 212 contained falsified data. To learn more about the story of how Fujii’s fraud was uncovered, you can read an article by our co-founders in Nautilus magazine.

Hat tip: Lemonstoism

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