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Biotech Japan Science

Senior RIKEN Scientist Involved In Stem Cell Scandal Commits Suicide 127

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Yoshiki Sasai, a noted stem cell scientist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) in Kobe, Japan, who co-authored two controversial and later retracted papers that reported a simple way of reprogramming mature cells, was confirmed dead this morning, an apparent suicide. Local media reported he was found hanging from a stairway railing in the RIKEN complex in Kobe. Sasai was rushed to a nearby hospital but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. He reportedly left a suicide note, but it has not been made public."
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Senior RIKEN Scientist Involved In Stem Cell Scandal Commits Suicide

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  • Because nobody could have possibly wanted this guy dead. Right? Guys?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't rush to crazy conclusions. The person disgraced himself in one of the most prestigious scientific journals. Anytime someone wants to look for his name in scientific literature, there it is.

      Some people just can't allow themselves to make mistakes and then accept it for what it is, a mistake.

      Don't try to make a hurricane in a teapot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      He was Japanese - Japanese people are famous for commiting "honor" suicide when being seriously shamed and/or as a way to accept responsibility for a major failure.
      So, yes, "case closed"!

  • It wasn't his fault (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:18PM (#47608437)

    The article makes it seem like the retracted Nature articles were why he committed suicide (or a major contributor to it).. but they weren't really his fault. Haruko Obokata was the lead researcher on those, and also the person responsible for fabricating the research results. Sure, his name was on it as a co-author, but that sounds more like the result of office politics than actually believing what she was publishing. Even his employer seemed like they held him in high regard after the scandal broke.

    Sucks to see a man driven to suicide by something he didn't do.

    • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:25PM (#47608481) Homepage Journal

      They haven't released the note, that makes assessing the motivations impractical.

      • Especially in a country like Japan where suicide is a huge problem, the note's contents will never be released.

        Reporting on suicide has serious ethical consequences, and revealing the contents of the note means others will see suicide as a valid way to bring their ideas, grievances, or innocence to public light.

        In most cases suicides are not reported, and even if they are newsworthy, generally the suicide nature is downplayed as much as possible.

        It's one of those really sucky problems that's hard to deal wi

    • He's the senior researcher _and_ was ready to take credit.

      Even if he knew nothing of the fraud, it was partly his job to prevent it.

    • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Tuesday August 05, 2014 @03:55PM (#47608599)

      Sure, his name was on it as a co-author, but that sounds more like the result of office politics than actually believing what she was publishing. Even his employer seemed like they held him in high regard after the scandal broke.

      It was a bit more than that. He recruited Obokata to RIKEN, was her mentor, and supervised her STAP work. As you said, there is not even the slightest hint that he was engaged in any misconduct, but the RIKEN investigation did find that Sasai and Wakayama carried “heavy responsibility” for what happened, and the incident opened questions about how closely co-authors and research advisers should oversee the work of their underlings.

    • You don't understand Asian culture, or Japanese culture in particular.

      When one is "responsible" for something, even if one wasn't directly involved with the failure, the failure is attributed to EVERYONE responsible and is a major loss of "Face". It's especially bad in this case since it wasn't just an error, it was a planned deception by the lead researcher. So every project this person is associated with will now be "tainted"... (yeah, a bit different than Western culture) so pretty much his career w
    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      Even if it was not his fault, it was his responsibility. If you accept a senior-author position on a paper, then you have responsibility for the scientific integrity. You also accept the impact factor very willingly.

      That does by no way mean that your career should be completely over after one mistake happening under your supervision.Let alone that, a society in which one mistake after a very sucessful and long scientific career pressures a man to kill himself should strongly question its own standards in de

  • My heart goes out to his relatives. People get so caught up in their public persona, they often forget that they could lead a fantastic life in obscurity after a major failure like this. I live in obscurity every day! It's great!

    Last week I had a cousin make an attempt with a bunch of pills. Rather than hospitalize him, the police took him to jail for possession where he promptly finished the job with a belt. I didn't know him really well so I'm not all torn up but some in my family are. This is an entirely

  • And put his clone on trial.

  • And publish or perish has an even deeper meaning in many Asian countries.

    Both the pressure to release things before they are fully proven.

    And the pressure to always succeed no matter the costs.

    The lack of critiques by junior scientists involved in the institutions and labs involved is another cause of these distorted results.

    One of the first thing scientists from Asian countries learn when they work in US labs is that they are expected to critique and question senior scientists, which is regarded as Not Don

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    If only we had some stem cells, we might have saved him!
  • Of Samurai stem-cell research!

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.