Imanishi-Kari's Appeal

The article "Decision In Imanishi-Kari Appeal Spurs Call For Changes In System" in your edition of August 19 [B. Goodman, The Scientist, page 1] reports that an appeals panel of the Department of Health and Human Services cleared Thereza Imanishi-Kari of all 19 counts of scientific misconduct. The panel consisted of two lawyers of the department and a Distinguished Service Professor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The panelists could not deny that there are many things wr

Oct 28, 1996
Walter Ehrlich

The article "Decision In Imanishi-Kari Appeal Spurs Call For Changes In System" in your edition of August 19 [B. Goodman, The Scientist, page 1] reports that an appeals panel of the Department of Health and Human Services cleared Thereza Imanishi-Kari of all 19 counts of scientific misconduct. The panel consisted of two lawyers of the department and a Distinguished Service Professor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The panelists could not deny that there are many things wrong with the paper in question; however, they qualified all the wrongs as mere errors. We cannot judge because the errors are not spelled out in the article, save one: We can learn that the data used in the paper are different from those that were recorded and from those written in the protocol. This is, however, not qualified as misconduct but is explained by the "innocent" fact that "Dr. Imanishi-Kari was aberrant in data recordings and in rounding patterns." This unusual explanation seems to indicate that the panelists had been very carefully chosen for the task given to them.

Science is the activity of seeking the truth. In science, truth is not established by administrative fiat but by results of experiments. It is therefore astonishing that within the long period of 10 years no independent immunologist has confirmed the experimental results published in the controversial paper by Imanishi-Kari, especially if it concerns an important problem. It is even more astonishing that, at the beginnings of the controversy, Imanishi-Kari herself has not volunteered to repeat her experiments in collaboration with an independent immunologist. Would not everybody with a good conscience try to convince doubting colleagues with experimental results obtained in collaboration?

As long as Imanishi-Kari's results published 10 years ago are not confirmed by, or in collaboration with, independent scientists, the jury is still out.

Walter Ehrlich
Associate Professor, Emeritus
Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health
Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Division of Physiology
615 N. Wolfe St.
Baltimore, Md. 21205