President of Stanford Resigns After Photoshopped Images Were Found in His Research

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who has been president of Stanford University for seven years, has resigned after proof that he digitally altered and falsified images in his research papers was revealed by a student journalist.

12 papers authored by Tessier-Lavigne were found to have falsified information, according to NPR, including lab panels that had been digitally stitched together, panel backgrounds that were digitally altered, and blot results that were taken from other research papers.

“The allegations revolved around the idea that images that were published in his papers had been manipulated and Photoshopped to show results that they did not actually represent,” 18-year-old student journalist Theo Baker tells ABC 7 News Bay Area.

“It’s important to note that there were whispers of something involving alleged or manipulated research that Tessier-Lavigne had published that were floating around the internet for years. They were hiding in scientific forums, they were hiding on blog posts, but they had never been reported even when he assumed the post of Stanford’s president where he directs an institution with more than $8.9 billion in yearly funding — higher than 11 U.S. states.”

Baker’s bombshell report has resulted in Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation. The Stanford president is also issuing retractions or corrections to what Baker calls “widely cited papers.”

A scientific panel that was convened by a law firm hired by Stanford’s board concluded that Tessier-Lavigne did not have a big enough role in publishing the facts and figures on the reports he co-authored. Additionally, for the reports in which he was the principal author, the panel concluded he didn’t know about the manipulations, NPR reports.

However, the panel did find that Tessier-Lavigne didn’t do enough to oversee his lab better to identify those who did manipulate his research and that he wasn’t aggressive enough to correct the data once it was published. Baker notes that the issue of lack of oversight took place over the course of two decades and was part of a culture of “winners” and “losers” where the winners were rewarded, and the losers were punished. Baker argues that culture is bigger than just Tessier-Lavigne and that it is just one example of issues in scientific research integrity.

“As I have emphatically stated, I have never submitted a scientific paper without firmly believing that the data were correct and accurately presented,” Tessier-Lavigne says in a statement. “Today’s report supports that statement.”

“I agree that in some instances I should have been more diligent when seeking corrections, and I regret that I was not,” he added. “The Panel’s review also identified instances of manipulation of research data by others in my lab. Although I was unaware of these issues, I want to be clear that I take responsibility for the work of my lab members.”

Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation will be effective August 31, but he will remain on as a Stanford faculty member and continue his research.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.