Published: 20-12-2016 12:16 | Updated: 27-12-2016 16:00

KI finds Paolo Macchiarini and three co-authors guilty of scientific misconduct

Karolinska Institutet has announced its decision on one of several cases of alleged scientific misconduct associated with Paolo Macchiarini. The decision, in brief, means that the lead author and three co-authors of the article have been found guilty of scientific misconduct. For two of the authors, who are more junior, there are mitigating circumstances.

The case relates to the article entitled “Experimental orthotopic transplantation of a tissue-engineered oesophagus in rats” published in Nature Communications in 2014, with Paolo Macchiarini as the lead author. This is the first of several articles by Paolo Macchiarini to undergo re-examination following the decision of the former vice-chancellor to exonerate the researchers from scientific misconduct but censuring the articles for being careless and flawed.

Pursuant to the documentary series “Experimenten” and the resignation of the former vice-chancellor, acting vice-chancellor Karin Dahlman-Wright decided to reopen a number of the cases and demand a statement of opinion from the expert group at the Central Ethical Review Board.

Karin Dahlman-Wright and acting pro-vice-chancellor Henrik Grönberg comment the decision on the first case in an article on today’s DN Debatt page:

“KI’s decision on the matter of scientific misconduct agrees with the pronouncement of the expert group in scientific misconduct at the Central Ethical Review Board (CEPN). KI also shares the CEPN’s view that there are mitigating circumstances surrounding the more junior authors, and that whoever puts their name to a scientific article bears responsibility for it. However, as regards whether all co-authors of a study that has been judged to contain elements of misconduct can be held accountable for the entire published work KI reaches a different conclusion.”

The study in question includes a number of different methods practised by the authors. Since anyone who is an expert on a certain method might well not be in a position to take responsibility for the final compiled results, each author’s responsibility has been assessed individually.

KI finds that Paolo Macchiarini and three of the co-authors had insight into and an overview of the process, either in its entirety or in large part, and are thus to be found guilty of scientific misconduct. The remaining authors contributed in ways that are not judged to constitute misconduct, nor were they in a position to have had insight into or an overview of the whole project.

Regarding penal measures, two senior authors are no longer employed at Karolinska Institutet, so no action in terms of labour law will be taken.

Given that the two junior researchers were in a position of dependency towards their more senior colleagues in the research group and that the process has been very protracted, their circumstances must be considered mitigating. They have therefore been issued with a caution.