Two plant scientists who have worked at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France and are known for their research on how RNA interference helps certain plants and animals fight off viral invaders are being punished by the institution for scientific misconduct. Olivier Voinnet, already banned temporarily from receiving funding from the Swiss government, received “an official reprimand,” according to a CNRS announcement today (October 3), while his collaborator Patrice Dunoyer will be demoted.
The sanctions follow the conclusion of an investigation led by CNRS with participation by ETH Zurich, where Voinnet is currently on temporary assignment. The investigation focused on corrections issued to papers previously called into question and new publications. Among the problems turned up by the investigation are incomplete corrections, with manipulated images remaining in the published literature, and at least one new example of image manipulation.
ETH Zurich announced last month that the investigation had failed to uncover evidence that Voinnet himself was personally involved in the new cases of data manipulation, Nature reports. Now, CNRS is revealing its findings, similarly concluding that evidence was lacking for Voinnet’s direct role in the data fabrication. CNRS administrators decided that he could not be removed from his position as group leader. On the other hand, Dunoyer, who is currently on assignment at the Secretariat General of South Province, New Caledonia, played an undeniable role in the misconduct, CNRS administrators found.