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Scientist tries to reinstate research

A NOBEL Prize winner involved in allegations of scientific fraud is to take the highly unusual step of trying to reinstate research that he retracted last year.

In what is likely to be the first case of its kind, David Baltimore, a research professor at the Rockefeller University in New York, is asking a scientific journal to retract his earlier retraction.

Professor Baltimore said yesterday that one of his researchers who stands accused of fraud has repeated the key experiments and has now 'demonstrated the soundness' of the original work.

The paper, published in the journal Cell in 1986, purported to show important insights into how the body defends against disease and was hailed as a breakthrough in understanding the genetics of the immune system.

However, Professor Baltimore retracted the findings last March after a number of official investigations suggested that crucial data were fabricated by one of his researchers, Thereza Imanishi-Kari, an immunologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Following the scientific investigations, Dr Imanishi-Kari faced the prospect of a court prosecution and a federal criminal inquiry. However, the US prosecutor yesterday decided not to go ahead with courtproceedings.

Professor Baltimore said that 'it is comforting to know that in the eyes of a dispassionate third party, the evidence produced by the Secret Service (sic) is not compelling. Doubts about Dr Theresa Imanishi-Kari's work raised by the Secret Service report are dispelled by the affadavit of a forensic analyst.

'In the six years since this unfortunate episode began, the science in the Cell paper has been examined critically by many scientists throughout the world and all of its conclusions have been supported . . . It is time now for the paper to again make a valid contribution to scientific discourse.'

He said that scientists were free to examine and judge the research for themselves, and that Dr Imanishi-Kari should be allowed to carry on research 'without the incessant attacks on her character that have savaged her career'.

John Maddox, editor of the British science journal Nature, said that he could not remember any scientist asking for a retracted paper to be reinstated. 'It's mysterious that David Baltimore now thinks he (the Editor of Cell) will retract his retraction,' he said.