Funding Ban for Plant Biologist

Olivier Voinnet, who has corrected and retracted several papers, cannot receive Swiss government grants for three years.

Jan 26, 2016
Kerry Grens

FLICKR, INRA DISTA plant biologist whose institution—the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology—found him guilty of scientific misconduct last year is now banned from receiving federal research funding for three years. Retraction Watch today (January 26) reported that the Swiss National Science Foundation stopped Olivier Voinnet’s current funding as well, which totaled about 1.25 million Swiss francs.

Voinnet has amassed seven retractions and 21 corrections, according to Retraction Watch. Just last week (January 22), Science corrected three papers by Voinnet and colleagues.

According to the erratum notice on a 2006 paper on plant antiviral defenses, the corrections stem from “mistakes” in preparing the figures: “The original lab book data provided to the editors of Science showed that these errors did not alter the data in any material way that could be construed to benefit the results and their conclusions. Olivier Voinnet takes the full responsibility for the mistakes.”

Update (January 28): The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) has rescinded an award given to Voinnet, according to writer Leonid Schneider (confirmed by Retraction Watch).

EMBO conducted its own investigation into Voinnet’s publications, finding additional instances of data manipulation beyond those already discussed in the public domain. EMBO director Maria Leptin wrote in a memo to members (via Schneider): “The committee concluded that the manipulation of data in the publications authored by Voinnet was unacceptable for the proper reporting of research and devalued both science in general and the Gold Medal in particular.”

According to Leptin, Voinnet agreed to return the medal.