A scandal that started with a few suspicious images has led Japan’s most prestigious research institute to slash its stem-cell unit by half and acknowledge deeper flaws in its ethics.
The move by the Riken institute came seven months after the publication of papers that it initially hailed as equal in importance to the Copernican revolution in astronomy. Since then, the papers have been retracted, and one of the co-authors committed suicide.
On Wednesday, Riken said it would scale down to half its size the Center for Developmental Biology, rename the center and choose a new director with input from non-Japanese scientists, an indication of how the scandal has damaged the reputation of Japanese science.
“As the one responsible for Riken’s operations, I deeply regret our failure in risk management and preventing misconduct,” said Ryoji Noyori, the Nobel Prize winner who leads Riken, pledging that the institute would push forward with restructuring to “promote honest research.”
Riken’s overhaul could also sway the field of stem-cell science, which has received billions of dollars in research funds in the hopes of cures for ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. Science writer Shinya Midori said, “This could trigger scaling down in the field of regenerative medicine.”
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