Haruko Obokatawas the head of her research lab at the RICKEN Centre for Developmental Biology(CDB) in Kobe, Japan. When the paper was published, “Bidirectionaldevelopmental potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency” on January29th 2014, it was supposedly ground breaking.
People in the sciencecommunity originally thought Obokata would be in line for the next Nobel Prizefor her work in producing pluripotent stem cells. As this was such agroundbreaking paper, within two days of it being published, it was beingscrutinized. Twitter and Science blogs were discussing the “science” of thepaper and the authenticity of the results. These people claimed that the imagesappeared doctored and that sections of text had been plagiarised.
The scrutinycaused the RICKEN centre and Nature, who had published the paper, toinvestigate the results and the paper. From this investigation, by April 1st,Haruko Obokata had been found guilty of scientific misconduct.Thelaboratory she worked for allowed her to stay to try and produce her resultsagain as Obokata defended her paper. In June, she agreed that her article bewithdrawn and by July her paper had been retracted. This triggered anoverhaul within the CDB as the blame wasplaced on Obokata when her seniors should have picked up on the remarkableresults and plagiarised work within her paper.
As a result of the overhaul,around 250 staff lost their jobs and a new management team was brought in. Obokata’ssupervisor, Yoshiki Sasai, was diagnosed with depression and sadly committedsuicide on August 5th. He left three suicide notes, and one hadblamed the media for “unjust bashing” and the responsibility he felt towardsthe lab. WhenHaruko Obokata left university, she went to work with Charles Vacanti. He haddone work with stem cells previously, and brought up the idea of STAP. Hethought Obokata could bring some credibility to his work.
She joined his teamas a graduate, and they kept in touch with each other when she travelled backto Japan. Although his name appeared on both retracted papers, his work has notbeen brought into question.Sincethe scandal had been revealed, Obokata has had her doctorate revoked fromWaseda University as it was discovered she had plagiarised text in her thesis.In 2016, Haruko published a memoir where she discussed what lead to the papersbeing published and how it has affected her life since. In the book, she claimsthat she was set up as a scapegoat by the CDB and defends herself.
She alsosays she has been stalked by the media.