Japanese Anesthesiologist Fabricated Record Number Of Scientific Papers
July 5, 2012

Japanese Anesthesiologist Fabricated Record Number Of Scientific Papers

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Over the past 20 years, a Japanese man may have written some of the greatest works of fiction. The only problem is that his efforts were published in highly esteemed scientific research journals.

"It is as if someone sat at a desk and wrote a novel about a research idea," an investigative committee reported after reviewing the work of Yoshitaka Fuji, a Japanese anesthesiologist, according to Dennis Normile wrote for Science Insider.

The results of the review panel, which were posted to the official website for the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists, mean that Fuji could set the world record for most retractions by a single author at 172. An investigation of 212 of Fujii´s 249 published papers found that he had made up patients, falsified evidence, and tacked on co-authors who had no idea they were affiliated with his research.

The investigation was the conclusion of a public inquiry that began with a March 8 analysis in the journal Anaesthesia that raised questions about Fuji´s data. Scrutiny of his work intensified in April after editors representing 23 journals publicly asked officials at seven Japanese institutions to investigate the published papers.

The anesthesiology society eventually took on the inquiry because "it would have been difficult for any one institution to clarify what happened," said chief investigator Koji Sumikawa, according to Science Insider.

The report claims that 126 of the 172 rejected studies supposedly involving randomized, double-blind, trials "were totally fabricated."

For another 37 papers, the panel could not conclusively determine if there had been fabrication. The committee members were only able to identify three legitimate papers.

Fuji deliberately distorted the timing of the studies and the locations where they were conducted, according to the report. He apparently named hospitals and institutions with which he had some loose affiliations.

According to the review panel, the responsibility of Fuji´s co-authors ranges from "serious" to "none at all." The only one of Fujii's co-authors that was singled out by the review is University of Tsukuba anesthesiologist Hidenori Toyooka.

The report said Toyooka "was not involved in fabrication but bears significant responsibility" because he was Fuji's supervising professor for many of the studies supposedly conducted at the university and Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

At the same time, the investigation found that some scientists were unaware Fujii had included them as co-authors. In one case, two supposed co-authors that were questioned by the panel said their signatures were forged on submission documents.

Because the papers like "Antiemetic efficacy of low-dose midazolam in patients undergoing thyroidectomy" and "Low-dose propofol to prevent nausea and vomiting after laparoscopic surgery" aren´t Earth-shattering moments in science, Fuji´s fictional research went largely unnoticed for 19 years.

However, he did use his prolific appearance to land jobs, secure research funding, and earn speaking fees, according to the panel's report. Fuji´s hubris even allowed him to apply for prizes offered by the society, although he was never chosen.

Yoshitaka Fuji´s infamy for a possible 172 journal retractions would top that of German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt, who had 90. Perhaps coincidentally, Boldt´s work came under scrutiny several years ago by some of the same journal editors questioning Fuji's.