LOCAL SCIENTISTS DEFEND THEIR WORK AT CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE
Author: By Judy Foreman, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Nobel laureate David Baltimore of Cambridge and his
colleague, Thereza Imanishi-Kari, defended themselves yesterday before an all-
day congressional hearing focusing on questions raised about a research paper
they and others wrote three years ago in the journal Cell.
Imanishi-Kari, whose laboratory notebooks were a major subject of the
hearing before the investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on
Energy and Commerce, is a pathologist at the Tufts University School of
Medicine. Baltimore is director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical
Rep. John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the
subcommittee, said a forensic examination of the notebooks showed that entries
purported to have been recorded in 1984 and 1985 were actually made in the
spring of 1986 -- after the paper had been published.
Secret Service officials testified, based on analysis of ink, paper and
writing indentations, that on several pages dates had been deliberately
changed "with intent to conceal." All together, they said, the dates on about
19 percent of the 134 pages were "questionable."
Imanishi-Kari said she had been too busy with other experiments to log
all her data properly as the experiments were going on. Instead, she said,
''At a later time, when I reviewed those data once again, compared it to
subsequent data, or reviewed the overall history of the series of experiments,
I pulled the original printouts from the files in which they were kept and
recorded the data from them into my laboratory notes.
"I am very bad at dates," she said. "I sometimes make mistakes in writing
dates. Of that I am guilty."
She added that she had no motive for fabricating data and that she hopes
her research on genetic control of the immune system, which she and the other
authors insist is basically correct, will someday help people suffering from
diseases like lupus, which she has and which she says killed her sister.
Baltimore, director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in
Cambridge, passionately defended the team of which he was a part. "There is
nothing in the Secret Service investigation," he said, "that causes me to
doubt the validity of the Cell paper." He did acknowledge that Imanishi-
Kari's style of record-keeping "is not a form of data handling I would
After about eight hours of testimony, Dingell said he was still not
satisified the committee's questions had been answered. He will continue the
hearings next Tuesday.
Some of the questions raised yesterday were about a letter written by
Baltimore several months after the paper was published in April 1986, in which
he himself raised serious questions about portions of the disputed paper.
According to testimony yesterday, the letter had been in the hands of a
National Institutes of Health staff member for nearly a year, but was first
shown to NIH head Dr. James Wyngaarden and a review panel several weeks ago.
Wyngaarden had appointed the panel to review the Cell paper.
Baltimore yesterday characterized as "unfortunate" his September 1986
letter, in which he said a certain test used in the experiment had not worked
as described in the paper. He also wrote that he did not think a formal
acknowledgment of the error was necessary.
"This is not a suggestion of which I am proud," Baltimore testified
yesterday. "This was bad judgment, and I'm confident that if I had thought
about it a little longer, I would have wanted to write a letter to Cell."