An internal investigation by Harvard Medical School into scientific misconduct by one of its former stem cell researchers used information from the researcher’s colleagues and computer hard drive searches to confirm a breach of academic integrity, according to the investigation’s official report.
Released to The Boston Globe through a Freedom of Information Act request, the report outlines the process by which Shane R. Mayack, formerly a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of professor Amy J. Wagers, misrepresented results in two papers that she co-authored while working for the lab.
According to The Boston Globe, Mayack’s fellow researcher became suspicious in spring 2010 after he tried and failed to replicate Mayack’s experimental techniques. He realized that an image from a paper she authored in 2008, although rotated, appeared similar to an image published in 2006 by a different author, prompting the investigation.
Both the 2008 paper—published in the journal Blood—and another published in Nature in 2010 were retracted by her fellow co-authors. Mayack did not sign either retraction, maintaining in both cases that the results were valid.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity publicly released a report on the investigation last August. Mayack was sanctioned for falsely representing results in both her 2008 and 2010 papers, according to the Federal Register. She agreed to a settlement at that time but refused to confirm or deny the allegations.
Downloaded copies of two images from the 2006 paper were found on Mayack’s hard drive during the Medical School investigation, according to The Boston Globe. Mayack admitted that the images were identical, the report states, but she attributed the mislabeling to her poor filing.
“We are fully committed to upholding the highest standards of ethics and to rigorously maintaining the integrity of our research,” Medical School Spokesperson Katie DuBoff wrote in an email. “Any concerns brought to our attention are thoroughly reviewed in accordance with institutional policies and applicable regulations.”
Mayack studied young mice and compounds in their blood that she claimed could be used to rejuvenate blood stem cells in older mice. Her results had promising implications for slowing the aging process. The findings seem to be corroborated by further research despite the retractions, according to The Boston Globe.
—Staff writer Ryan M. Rossner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @asebenius.
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