The matter involves Catherine Verfaillie (pictured) and New Scientist magazine, which raised concerns about the research. Verfaille is currently listed on the CIRM Web site as one of the scientists who make de facto decisions on research grant applications for hundreds of millions of dollars from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.
We queried CIRM two days ago about Verfaillie but the agency has not responded.
The research inquiries at the University of Minnesota involve scientists who worked in Verfaillie's lab or who were affiliated with her. She is now working at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium but is still associated with the University of Minnesota. New Scientist once described her as running “one of highest-profile teams in stem-cell biology.”
Here is how Chris Williams of The Associated Press began his story last week on the research investigation,
“The University of Minnesota has launched its third internal investigation in two years into allegations of research misconduct....”Jeremy Olson of the St. Paul Pioner Press wrote,
“In a familiar pattern, reporters from New Scientist magazine found images in a published study that appeared questionable and alerted U officials.Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the Minnesota case has implications that go beyond one researcher or institution.
“The university already has retracted one stem cell study and corrected two others because of concerns raised by New Scientist. Having to launch yet another inquiry is an embarrassment for a university that has been viewed as a global expert in stem cell research....”
According to reporter Williams,
"'What's unusual here is that you're starting to get other people involved," (Caplan) said. 'It's become a problem of a group, not an individual.'"Williams continued,
“The Minnesota situation is also unusual, Caplan said, in that its researchers have been getting special scrutiny from New Scientist. He suspects there would be more questions of sloppiness or fraud at other universities if more outsiders were watching.Peter Aldous and Eugenie Samuel Reich have been investigating the work at the University of Minnesota over several years. Their most recent piece on Aug. 5 said,
“There is particular pressure on scientists working in the stem cell field, with its mix of politics, the prestige of breakthroughs and the potential profits from patents.
"'I really can't think of too many areas that are more set up for somebody to cut corners than stem cell work,' he said.”
“Other stem cell biologists are disturbed that so many problems have been found in papers from a single institution. 'It's pretty discouraging," says Arnold Kriegstein of the University of California, San Francisco. Given the pressure on scientists in such competitive fields, he wonders what might emerge at other research centres if their publications were subjected to similarly close scrutiny.Aldous and Reich's Aug. 5 article has a full rundown on the cases they have investigated. Sphere: Related Content
"'It raises serious issues about how widespread this could be,' he says."