16 June 2014
ByAppeared in BioNews 758
The controversy surrounding the creation of so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition pluripotency, STAP cells (see BioNews 757) continues with a report recommending the closure of the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology (CDB), the institute where the research was carried out.
Professor Teruo Kishi, the chair of the committee behind the report, said (as relayed by The Asahi Shimbun): 'The CDB should be dismantled within the year. People in Japan and abroad are watching closely to see if RIKEN will take the scandal seriously and take preventive steps'.
The report was presented by the RIKEN reform committee, set up in April in the wake of the STAP cell controversy. The committee extended blame for the papers' shortcomings to other CDB scientists than Haruko Obokata, who has been the focus of misconduct allegations so far. In this report, Obokata's superiors were found to have accepted primary data without sufficient scrutiny.
However, The Japan Times reports that Professor Kishi confirms that 'Obokata was the only individual found to have committed research misconduct by RIKEN's investigative panel. We concluded she should be given severe punishment'.
The report also details structural problems within the CDB and recommends a complete reorganisation, perhaps to form a new institute. Professor Kishi emphasises that 'this has to be more than just changing the nameplate', the Asahi Shimbun reports.
'Drastic reform is the only way to reform a RIKEN that makes poor information disclosure and has a weak system for independent external checks', he continued. 'RIKEN will be put to the test now, to demonstrate sincerity in enacting the proposal'.
The director of the CDB, Dr Masatoshi Takeichi, who was criticised in the report said he would
'seriously think about what should be done, but [...] would like to take
time to consider the recommendations', ScienceInsider reports.