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Federal investigators have issued findings of scientific misconduct against former MIT researcher Dr. Thereza Imanishi-Kari, stating that she deliberately misrepresented data and conclusions in a 1986 research study published in the journal Cell.
Dr. Imanishi-Kari, at Tufts University since 1986, is appealing the findings of Dr. Lyle W. Bivens, director of the Office of Research Integrity of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The findings were adopted by Terrence J. Tychan, the deputy assistant secretary for Grants and Acquisitions Management, who proposed that she be barred for 10 years from receiving federal government research grants. An appeal of the findings is the normal next step in the process.
A letter to Dr. Imanishi-Kari from Dr. Bivens and Mr. Tychan detailed 19 separate charges of scientific misconduct involving Figure 1, Table 2 and Table 3 of the Cell article; research data in a 1989 Letter of Correction to Cell; data in a notebook compiled for investigators, and statements in applications in 1984 and 1985 for grants to support the research.
The October 26 letter, confidential until it was made public 30 days later, concluded, "The acts of deliberate misrepresentation, falsification, and fabrication described. indicate the existence of an ongoing intent on your part to deceive and mislead readers of the Cell paper and officials and investigators of the PHS (Public Health Service). The acts.constitute a pattern of conduct extending over a four-year period that establishes a lack of integrity and honesty on your part."
Thomas Watson, attorney for Dr. Imanishi-Kari, said Monday, "She maintains that she is completely innocent of all charges." He said she has just relinquished her position as assistant professor of pathology but will stay at Tufts as a research associate until July.
The trial-like appeal, before the three-person Departmental Appeals Board, will probably begin in about nine months and take about three weeks for testimony and cross-examination, he said.
The research paper, "Altered Reportoire of Endogenous Immunoglobulin Gene Expression in Transgenic Mice Containing a Rearranged Mu Heavy Chain Gene," was written by David Weaver, Moema H. Reis, Christopher Albanese, Frank Costantini, David Baltimore and Thereza Imanishi-Kari. At the time the article was submitted, Drs. Weaver and Baltimore were affiliated with the MIT Department of Biology and the Whitehead Institute; Drs. Reis, Albanese and Imanishi-Kari were affiliated with the MIT biology department and the MIT Center for Cancer Research, and Dr. Costantini was affiliated with Columbia University. Imanishi-Kari was the only person investigated for alleged falsification of data in the complex case, which was the subject of two Congressional hearings.
MIT Provost Mark S. Wrighton commented: "Findings of scientific misconduct against Dr. Imanishi-Kari by the US Department of Health and Human Services are a serious matter. These findings are being appealed by Dr. Imanishi-Kari and conclusions regarding this matter must await the completion of the appeals process."
A version of this article appeared in the November 30, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 13).