Yoshitaka Fujii, a Japanese anesthesiologist, may have just set a new record in scientific misconduct. After an investigating committee organized by the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists concluded that he never saw the patients he claimed to see, or administered the medicine he claimed to treat them with, a total of 172 papers regarding those patients are up for retraction—a record number by a single author, according to ScienceInsider.
“It is as if someone sat at a desk and wrote a novel about a research idea,” the committee wrote in its report, posted in Japanese on the society's Web site last week (June 29).
Suspicion peaked this past March, when John Carlisle, a consultant anesthetist with the South Devon NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdome published an analysis of Fujii’s work that found his results to be “extremely unlikely to have arisen by chance...” The following month, journal editors encouraged seven Japanese institutions to initiate an investigation.
Focusing on 212 of 249 known Fujii papers, the investigating committee interviewed people involved in the research, and looked for raw data, lab notebooks, and other evidence that the experiments had been completed. In the end, the committee concluded that 172 papers were bogus, 126 of which “were totally fabricated.” Committee members found it impossible to determine if misconduct had occurred in 37 papers, and stated that only three papers were actually valid.
Fujii had falsified and fabricated data over the course of 19 years, including his tenures at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, the University of Tsukuba, and most recently, Toho University in Tokyo, which dismissed Fujii last February after the institution discovered he failed to get ethical review board approval for some of his studies.
Though the papers did not garner much attention (a June 18 post on the blog Retraction Watch reported on three recent retractions that had just six, four, and three citations), Fujii appears to have used the research to advance his career. The rest of the papers are likely to be retracted eventually as the report is being sent to each institutions involved, whose responsibility it is to formally request the retractions.