Prominent researcher dismissed following misconduct probe

Yoshinori Watanabe

The University of Tokyo has fired a high-profile cell biologist after a probe determined his group had falsified data.

According to a news release issued today (in Japanese), the university has issued a “disciplinary dismissal” of Yoshinori Watanabe (according to our Google translate of the notice).

In 2016, the institution began an investigation of seven papers from Watanabe’s lab after receiving anonymous allegations. In August 2017, the university announced the result: Five papers contained falsified or fabricated images. One — a 2015 Science paper — has already been retracted.

According to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, Watanabe has published more than 100 papers, which have been cumulatively cited thousands of times.

Last year, regarding the Science retraction, Watanabe told us:

All errors in microscopic images happened because of unintentional mistakes in microscopy usage or in image adjustment. I deeply regret that these instances of non-identical acquisition settings or adjustment escaped my notice.

Regarding the other papers flagged by the investigation, Watanabe told us last year:

I admit that some of the image processing steps that we used were improper. We believe, though, that the improper processing of data in the other papers does not change the results, and these papers can be corrected using the original data. We are in contact with journals to correct these papers. For one paper (EMBO reports), a correction has already been published.

According to Science, the University of Tokyo investigation examined allegations that multiple research groups at the university had fabricated and falsified data in 22 papers, but concluded that only Watanabe’s group had falsified and fabricated data.

Last year, ScienceInsider reported that the university would decide on disciplinary action after reviewing additional papers from Watanabe’s group.  According to a Nature News story from August 2017, all members of Watanabe’s lab had left and his 416-million-yen grant (US$3.7-million) from Japan’s science ministry had been suspended.

Watanabe’s lab website appears to be still active.

Hat tip: Lemon-stoism, Author of world fluctuation watch

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