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On July 2, a taciturn but brilliant Japanese stem-cell scientist named Yoshiki Sasai wrote a plaintive letter in which he expressed profound remorse. The 52-year-old, who co-wrote two trumpeted stem-cell articles in the prestigious journal Nature, was just coming to grips with their retraction and the ballooning controversy that had embarrassed his renowned research institution.
He titled his missive, “Apology regarding the paper retractions.” He wrote: “I am deeply ashamed of the fact that two papers of which I am an author were found to contain multiple errors and, as a result, had to be retracted.”
Part of what so shamed him, he said, was his failure as a mentor. “As a deputy director of our center, with responsibility for nurturing young researchers, I feel a deep responsibility for what has happened, and plan to comply with whatever decision Riken [research institute] finally reaches regarding my own status.”
“I also deeply regret the fact that as a co-author,” Sasai said in his note, “I was not able to identify these errors beforehand and to exercise my leadership to prevent this regrettable situation, including misconduct, from occurring.”