Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has disputed aspects of the dramatic front-page story in The Washington Post about two young researchers that we recently reported. In a letter to the editor of the Post published on 23 March, the Hopkins medical school’s executive vice dean and vice dean for research, Landon S. King, points out “serious flaws” in the article, which he states was “based heavily on the perspective of one former Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine employee.”
The article neglects a number of “key points we made to The Post’s reporter,” King writes. “We explained that we don’t discuss personnel issues with the media. We noted that the former employee, Daniel Yuan, first expressed his concerns about a paper in the journal Nature last May, five months after his employment ended. We emphasized that discussion and debate are encouraged in research, particularly in labs at Johns Hopkins, and that peer-reviewed journals have a mechanism for airing questions and making corrections.”
In addition, despite the implications to the contrary in the article, “Dr. Yuan’s Johns Hopkins employment did not terminate because he challenged data,” King states. “In fact, senior investigator Jef Boeke extended Dr. Yuan’s employment for two years after the grant that supported Dr. Yuan’s salary ended, to give Dr. Yuan a chance to submit new grant applications.”
Yuan’s concerns about the disputed research got “extremely” serious attention from both the lab chief and the university, King adds. If the journal’s ultimate decision regarding the disputed research warrants it, he writes, Hopkins “will take appropriate measures.”
It’s not clear what those measures might be, given that one of the researchers concerned is dead and the other is no longer employed by the university. We will keep you posted on any developments in this sad and tangled affair.