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Stanford president resigns after fallout from falsified data in his research

People walk on the Stanford University campus beneath Hoover Tower in Stanford, Calif., on March 14, 2019. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said on Wednesday he would resign, citing an independent review that cleared him of research misconduct but found flaws in other papers authored by his lab.
Ben Margot
/
AP
People walk on the Stanford University campus beneath Hoover Tower in Stanford, Calif., on March 14, 2019. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said on Wednesday he would resign, citing an independent review that cleared him of research misconduct but found flaws in other papers authored by his lab.

Updated July 20, 2023 at 6:36 PM ET

The president of Stanford University has resigned after an investigation opened by the board of trustees found several academic reports he authored contained manipulated data.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who has spent seven years as president, authored 12 reports that contained falsified information, including lab panels that had been stitched together, panel backgrounds that were digitally altered and blot results taken from other research papers.

He was the principal author on five of the reports, and a co-author on seven. A scientific panel, convened by a law firm hired by the board, concluded that he did not have a big role in publishing the facts and figures in question on the reports he co-authored. For the reports in which he was the principal author, the panel found that he did not know about the misrepresentations.

However, the panel did conclude that Tessier-Lavigne could have overseen his lab better to identify others who may have been manipulating research. It also found that Tessier-Lavigne was not aggressive enough in correcting the incorrect data once it was published.

He said Wednesday that he accepts the panel's findings and acknowledges that he could have done better.

"As I have emphatically stated, I have never submitted a scientific paper without firmly believing that the data were correct and accurately presented," he said. "Today's report supports that statement."

"I agree that in some instances I should have been more diligent when seeking corrections, and I regret that I was not," he added. "The Panel's review also identified instances of manipulation of research data by others in my lab. Although I was unaware of these issues, I want to be clear that I take responsibility for the work of my lab members."

The panel said of the five papers in which Tessier-Lavigne was the principal author, he intends to retract three and issue corrections for the other two.

Although Tesser-Lavigne is stepping down as president, effective Aug. 31, he will remain a Stanford faculty member and continue his research on brain development and neurodegeneration.

Stanford aims to find a new president in time for the start of the coming school year in August.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: July 19, 2023 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this story said the Stanford University board of trustees came to its own conclusion about Tessier-Lavigne's academic reports. However, a scientific panel convened by the board to review the reports concluded that several reports he authored contained manipulated data. The board then made those findings available to the public.
Ayana Archie