Earlier this month, Tokushima University in Japan announced it was revoking a student’s PhD degree — but for a somewhat unusual reason.
The student didn’t appear to commit misconduct. Rather, the authors discovered a series of errors that invalidated the paper’s central conclusion.
The case has us wondering about how universities should respond when they discover some of a PhD student’s research is no longer valid — especially when there is no suspicion of misconduct.
Based on our Google translation of the more detailed description of what happened, the university concluded the problem was the result of the authors’ “simple mistakes:”
… the probability of deliberately mistakenly calculating the data is low, and it was judged that there was no fraud with regard to this paper withdrawal.
However, since the 2016 Scientific Reports paper served as the basis for the student’s PhD, the university determined it had to withdraw the degree. The report is in Japanese, and doesn’t appear to name the student, but a digital archive shows first author Masatoshi Inoshita’s PhD degree (which bears the same title as the paper) was cancelled June 29.
“A significant causal association between C-reactive protein levels and schizophrenia” has been cited 14 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.
It’s rare for a university to strip a student of his or her degree, but it does happen — usually, as we’ve seen, after the university discovers the student committed some form of misconduct. So to take it away for mistakes, not misconduct, seems particularly unusual.
Do you think this approach is appropriate? Tell us, below.
Hat tip: Lemon-stoism, author of world fluctuation watch
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