Stanford University Fires It's President, Stating that He Had Manipulated Data in 12 Research Papers
"President Tessier-Lavigne has accepted the report and is making important corrections and retractions to the scientific record in light of the information now available to him..."
July 24, 2023
In a very flowery email written by Jerry Yang, Chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees, the University accused Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne of misconduct in 12 research papers apparently written years ago. The email also announced Appointment of Richard Saller as Interim President.
Stanford (which is my alma mater), has been involved in a number of scandals in recent years. Crypto wunderkind Sam Bankman-Fried grew up as a faculty brat there. Recently sentenced to 7 years, Ann Holmes attended Stanford when she founded Theranos, her blood testing company. Stanford Law School is refusing to comment on the status of Tirien Steinbach, its diversity, equity and inclusion associate dean who was placed on administrative leave this spring after she helped shout down a federal judge during his guest speech in 2023.
Yang directed the email to the "on-campus community of Stanford students, faculty, and staff." It was sent the morning of 7/19/23. It appears below.
Statement from Jerry Yang, Chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees. JULY 19, 2023
On behalf of the Stanford University Board of Trustees, I would like to share several important announcements with the Stanford community.
First, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne today announced his decision to resign as Stanford's president, effective August 31, 2023. Second, the Board has named Professor Richard Saller as interim president of the University beginning September 1, 2023. Third, the Board has publicly released a report related to a review of certain scientific papers on which President Tessier-Lavigne is a listed author.
In December 2022, the Board convened a Special Committee of its members to oversee a review of issues related to certain scientific papers on which President Tessier-Lavigne is a listed author.
The Special Committee appointed former federal judge Mark Filip and his law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, to lead the review, which included a thorough and impartial evaluation of the facts and issues by a panel of noted scientific leaders (the "Scientific Panel," whose biographies are here). The review involved dozens of interviews, correspondence with scientific journals, interactions with numerous other organizations, analyses by forensic image specialists, and the consideration of more than 50,000 documents. President Tessier-Lavigne offered his full cooperation and met with the Scientific Panel on multiple occasions.
The Board today released the full report from Mr. Filip and the Scientific Panel, which is available to the public here. We recommend the community read the report for a complete explanation of the review and its conclusions.
In this report, the Scientific Panel noted President Tessier-Lavigne's long and distinguished career as a scientist, in which he has co-authored more than 200 scientific papers and has made seminal contributions to the field of neuroscience. While the Special Committee placed no limits on the Scientific Panel's ability to consider issues it deemed to be within its purview, the Scientific Panel focused on issues related to twelve scientific papers about which concerns had been raised. Dr. Tessier-Lavigne was a principal author on five of those papers.
On the basis of the extensive record collected about the twelve papers, the Scientific Panel did not find evidence to conclude that Dr. Tessier-Lavigne personally engaged in research misconduct, as defined by the federal Office of Research Integrity. Further, the Scientific Panel did not find evidence to conclude that Dr. Tessier-Lavigne had actual knowledge of misconduct by others prior to publication of the papers.
With respect to the five papers on which Dr. Tessier-Lavigne was a principal author, the Scientific Panel did find evidence that some members of labs overseen by Dr. Tessier-Lavigne either engaged in inappropriate manipulation of research data or engaged in deficient scientific practices, resulting in significant flaws in those papers. In several instances, when these issues emerged, the Scientific Panel determined that Dr. Tessier-Lavigne took insufficient steps to correct mistakes in the scientific record.
President Tessier-Lavigne has accepted the report and is making important corrections and retractions to the scientific record in light of the information now available to him.
President Tessier-Lavigne's Resignation
In his letter to the community, President Tessier-Lavigne shared his reasons for resigning as president of the University. In light of the report and its impact on his ability to lead Stanford, the Board decided to accept President Tessier-Lavigne's resignation and agrees with him that it is in the University's best interests. He will continue in his position as a tenured professor in the Department of Biology.
The Board thanks President Tessier-Lavigne for his seven years of dedicated engagement and service as Stanford's president, during which he achieved a number of outstanding accomplishments. He was instrumental in creating Stanford's first new school in seventy years, the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, a center of academic excellence that will accelerate solutions to address the global climate crisis. With a team of dedicated University leaders, he ensured that Stanford retained its standing as a world-class institution through the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, in May 2019, President Tessier-Lavigne unveiled a strategic Long-Range Vision that will continue to guide the University's path forward.
Appointment of Richard Saller as Interim President
The Board has appointed Professor Richard Saller to serve as president of Stanford University on an interim basis. His appointment will begin on September 1, 2023, and will continue until the next president of the University is in place.
Dr. Saller is the Kleinheinz Family Professor of European Studies at Stanford. He is both a preeminent scholar in his field and an established leader at Stanford and in higher education. Prior to coming to Stanford, he served for five years as provost of the University of Chicago, where he was a professor for two decades.
From 2007 to 2018, Dr. Saller was the dean of Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences. In that role, he recruited a broad range of faculty in diverse fields, increased endowed chairs and graduate fellowships, oversaw construction of the Stanford arts district, and spearheaded a campaign to strengthen humanities education and increase enrollment in humanities courses. The Board extends its gratitude to Dr. Saller for his willingness to serve the University in this role.
In the coming weeks, the Board will appoint a search committee and will share more information about the process for selecting the University's next president. The Board would like to thank the University's academic and administrative leadership – along with Stanford's many dedicated faculty, administrators, and staff members – for their continuing efforts on behalf of Stanford and their support of Dr. Saller.
The Board's release of the report by Mr. Filip and the Scientific Panel concludes a process that was initiated with the goal of being thorough and fair. We thank Mark Filip and Kirkland & Ellis, as well as the Scientific Panel and its advisors, for their time, expertise, and professionalism. And, we appreciate the community's patience throughout the review.
Stanford is an exceptional and strong institution. The Board remains fully committed to Stanford's mission of excellence in research and education. As always, we stand in service of the best interests of the University we all love.
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Stanford University