Stanford University president to resign after flaws found in his research

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The president of Stanford University, one of the most prestigious US schools, announced plans on Wednesday to resign his post after an independent review ordered by its board of trustees found flaws in his research as a neuroscientist.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a letter to the university community that he would step down effective Aug. 31 as president of Stanford, located in Palo Alto, California, but would remain on the faculty.

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Saying that the review found areas where he should have “done better” and that he accepted those conclusions, Tessier-Lavigne wrote that he was resigning because he expected ongoing discussions about his work that could “lead to debate about my ability to lead the University into the new academic year.”

The review of Tessier-Lavigne’s past work was launched in December after allegations of fraudulent research on papers he co-authored surfaced on PubPeer, a crowd-sourced platform where scientists can raise concerns about scholarship.

The review, published on Wednesday, cleared Tessier-Lavigne of the most serious accusations leveled at him - of engaging in scientific fraud. Those allegations were in connection with Alzheimer’s disease research carried out when Tessier-Lavigne was the executive vice president of research drug discovery at the US biotechnology company Genentech Inc.

But the review of 12 research papers dating over two decades found that when concerns about the research were raised, “Tessier-Lavigne failed to decisively and forthrightly correct mistakes in the scientific record.”

As a result of the review, Tessier-Lavigne said he was going to retract three papers and correct another two.

In his letter, Tessier-Lavigne said he would resign even though the review of his work did not find any fraud or falsification of data on his part. Tessier-Lavigne will remain as a biology professor and continue to carry out research on brain development and neurodegeneration.

The board of trustees named Richard Saller, a professor in Stanford’s Department of Classics, as interim president beginning Sept. 1.

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