Huffington Post reports that Yoshiki Sasai has apparently committed suicide. Sasai was a mentor and co-author on the 2 retracted Nature papers that describe STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) stem cells.
Sasai’s team retracted the research papers from British science journal Nature over co-author Haruko Obokata’s alleged malpractice, which she has contested. Retractions of papers in major scientific journals are extremely rare, and the scandal was a major embarrassment to Japanese scientific research.
While fraud and misconduct are extremely bad for the scientific community, and this was a very public example of scientific misconduct, it is very sad to see this result. CauseScience sends its condolences to Sasai’s family, friends, colleagues, and peer researchers.
The Economist has a short editorial on two recent science flubs that ended up being ‘reviewed’ publicly on social media (including STAP stem cell papers from Dr Obokata published in Natureand Nature). This type of ‘peer-review’ is somewhat unorthodox, but in both cases it got the job done. Will this change the way academia handles review of scientific findings?
The public, however, pay for most of this stuff (science). That open peer review gives them a glimpse into the reality of life inside the ivory tower is probably a good thing. Despite the activities of people like Dr Obokata, science is one of the most trustworthy human activities. But as Ronald Reagan put it in a different context, “Trust, but verify.