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Ex-Provost, Harvard Corporation Member Will Investigate Stanford President’s Scientific Misconduct Allegations

An investigation into Stanford President Marc T. Tessier-Lavigne for potential academic misconduct is being assisted by a Harvard Corporation member and a former Harvard provost.
An investigation into Stanford President Marc T. Tessier-Lavigne for potential academic misconduct is being assisted by a Harvard Corporation member and a former Harvard provost. By Idil Tuysuzoglu
By Rahem D. Hamid and Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writers

A Harvard Corporation member and a former Harvard provost will help investigate Stanford’s president for potential academic misconduct in journal articles he co-authored, a Stanford special committee announced last week.

Steven E. Hyman, who served for a decade as Harvard’s provost from 2001 to 2011, and Shirley M. Tilghman, a former Princeton president who now serves on Harvard's highest governing body, the Harvard Corporation, will serve on a five-person scientific panel investigating Stanford President Marc T. Tessier-Lavigne.

Tessier-Lavigne has been an author on at least four neuroscience papers that allegedly contain manipulated images. The Stanford Daily first reported allegations of academic misconduct against Tessier-Lavigne in November 2022.

Stanford claims Tessier-Lavigne was informed of the allegations in 2015 and attempted to correct them, and that the images have no bearing on the papers’ findings. Experts — and the journal Science, which published one of the papers — disagree, the Daily reported.

Hours after the Daily published its report, the Stanford Board of Trustees announced that a special committee would investigate the allegations. In December, the special committee said that Mark R. Filip, a former federal judge and former U.S. deputy attorney general who now works with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, would lead the investigation.

Last week, Carol C. Lam, a Stanford trustee and the special committee’s chairperson, announced that Filip, a Harvard Law School alum, had convened a scientific panel to assist him. Some of the nation’s top neuroscientists and biologists, including Hyman and Tilghman, will serve on the five-person body.

A spokesperson for the special committee wrote in an emailed statement that panel members were selected for their research integrity expertise, academic publishing experience, and reputation among scientists.

Though scientists at the panel’s level of experience are likely familiar with Tessier-Lavigne and his work, Filip and the committee are confident that the panelists will maintain impartiality, the spokesperson added.

A Stanford trustee, Felix J. Baker, previously stepped down from the special committee after the Daily reported that he had a financial stake in Tessier-Lavigne’s biotech company.

Hyman, a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, led the National Institute of Mental Health from 1996 to 2001 and served as Harvard’s provost between 2001 and 2011. As provost, Hyman developed numerous interfaculty initiatives and helped create the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

During Hyman’s tenure as provost, several Harvard professors faced challenges to the academic integrity of their work. Most notably, former psychology professor Marc D. Hauser resigned in 2011 after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences found him responsible for academic misconduct in three published articles.

Other allegations of academic misconduct during Hyman’s tenure included charges of plagiarism against former Harvard School of Public Health assistant professor Ali A. Sultan in 2004 and former Harvard Medical School professor Lee S. Simon in 2009, both of whom resigned following the allegations. During Hyman's tenure, former HMS professor and Nobel laureate Linda B. Buck also retracted three academic papers, including one featuring research conducted at Harvard.

Tilghman, who was president of Princeton from 2001 to 2013, is a renowned molecular biologist who chaired the committee that reviewed Harvard’s life sciences program and also served on a committee that advised then-Dean of Radcliffe College Drew G. Faust as it became the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study. Tilghman was elected to the Harvard Corporation in 2015.

The panel’s scientific evaluation is ongoing, the release from the special committee said. There is no specific deadline for the completion of their work, according to a committee spokesperson.

Along with Hyman and Tilghman, the panel also includes Scripps College neuroscience professor Hollis T. Cline, Duke psychiatry and neurobiology professor Kafui Dzirasa, and University of California, Berkeley professor Randy W. Schekman — the recipient of a 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Hyman and Tilghman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at rahem.hamid@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at elias.schisgall@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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