In DepthScientific Misconduct

Former star surgeon's disgrace rocks Swedish science

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Science  16 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6305, pp. 1193-1194
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6305.1193

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What seemed a coup has turned into a nightmare for Sweden's most prestigious university, the Karolinska Institute (KI). In 2010, KI and its associated hospital in Stockholm managed to recruit star surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who made international headlines when he implanted artificial windpipes into patients. With his groundbreaking tissue engineering work, KI leaders hoped he would propel the university to the top of a hot field. Instead, Macchiarini has plunged Swedish science and KI into their most serious misconduct scandal in decades, with allegations ranging from faking scientific data to subjecting patients to a risky procedure without the necessary approvals, in at least two cases leading to their deaths. Over the past 2 weeks, four investigations have released their damning findings. One confirms that Macchiarini committed misconduct, while the other three paint an unflattering image of the roles KI and the hospital have played in the affair. The case has led to a wave of resignations and dismissals, both at KI and the Nobel Assembly, the august body of 50 KI professors that selects the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. But restoring trust won't be easy. A recent survey by a leading polling company found that the institute's reputation had plunged as a result of the scandal.