September 9, 1986
Dr. Herman Eisen
MIT Rm. E17-128B
After much thought about the situation brought on by my collaboration with Thereza Imanishi-Kari, my opinion has gelled around the following analysis.
1. The evidence that the Bet-1 antibody doesn't do as described in the paper is clear. Thereza's statement to you that she knew it all the time is a remarkable admission of guilt. Neither David Weaver nor I had any idea that there was a problem or an ambiguity with the serum. Why Thereza chose to use the data and to mislead both of us and those who read the paper is beyond me.
2. Given that the mu analysis is meaningless, does this change the paper? Not really and certainly not in any fundamental sense. The sequence data shows that only rarely is the transgene active and that's the heart of the matter. The mu analysis is important to the exact numbers but we sequenced enough to know that the qualitative picture is OK. Therefore, we could retract the mu analysis but that would not change the message.
3. A retraction would be difficult because David Weaver would be identified as senior author and he really had nothing to do with those data. All authors do have to take responsibility for a manuscript, so all of us are in a sense culpable, but I would hate to see David's integrity questioned for something he accepted in good faith and where his contribution is what makes the paper strong.
4. The literature is full of bits and pieces now known to be wrong but it is not the tradition to point out each one publicly. A retraction generally goes to the heart of a paper and implies that the data is generally unreliable. If the work came solely from Thereza's laboratory I would wonder about what else might be wrong but I am quite certain that what David did is solid.
In summary, I think that a retraction would harm the innocent and raise doubts about quite solid work. I think we should, however, acknowledge to colleagues that the Bet-1 results are not reliable and I, for one, will be skeptical of Thereza's work in the future.
cc: David Weaver
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