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2014年8月31日 (日)

社説:理研の改革計画 トップの責任どうした

August 29, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Riken reform plan fails to hold top management responsible for STAP scandal
社説:理研の改革計画 トップの責任どうした

Is the Riken research institute's proposed reorganization plan enough to revive the government-backed organization? We cannot help but doubt this.
Riken has released an action plan for reform that includes the disassembling and rebuilding its Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) -- the site of the research into so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells. The plan, formulated following the discovery of irregularities in research papers on the cells, also calls for strengthening of Riken's organizational governance.

The research institute says that the reforms are for the sake of society, not itself, and has decided to replace the head of the CDB, Masatoshi Takeichi. However, neither Riken President Ryoji Noyori nor any of the executive directors will be removed. Rather, the only Riken research organization to be reorganized is the CDB, which certainly does not evoke an image of a reborn Riken. More extensive reorganization reaching the top management is therefore necessary.

In June, a reform committee comprised of outside experts recommended disassembling the CDB and making personnel changes. Based on this, a decision was made to change the name of the CDB and appoint a new head, to be chosen by a committee that will include foreign researchers. Half of the 40 research laboratories at the CDB are also to be transferred to new management, including other Riken research centers.

Out of consideration for researchers at the CDB who had no part in the STAP cell scandal, the reorganization will not take away jobs from any of the 450 or so CDB researchers, and many of the research labs set to have new management will remain in their current locations for some time. Riken, however, must take care to make its reorganization more than just a "new layer of paint."

Under the reorganization, the CDB will reconstruct its research programs around programs that involve young and mid-level researchers. A management committee including non-Riken members will also be created to replace the management structure that has existed until now, wherein CDB policy was decided by veteran researchers called "group directors."

Having a setup that supports young researchers is important, and we hope to see the proposed arrangements go forward smoothly. A new management structure is, additionally, a natural step. But if the new management is composed of people closely tied to the old management, this won't constitute real change. The matter of who is chosen for the new management, therefore, will be significant.

What we are ultimately unhappy with is the lack of renovation within Riken headquarters' leadership. While a new management strategy committee has been announced with over half of its members being non-Riken, and a post has been created to oversee research ethics education, none of the proposed changes pursue the management responsibilities of the president and executive directors.

President Noyori has called the current executive directors "very capable people," and wants to keep them in place while the reorganization of Riken is carried out. Who, however, can believe that meaningful reforms will occur with the same executives in place who failed to stop the spread of the STAP cell problem?

Riken had been on track to receive designation as a "specified national research and development corporation," which would have given it various benefits, before the STAP cell issue came to light and caused lawmakers to postpone debate of the relevant legislation. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which presides over Riken, should decide whether or not to grant the designation after carefully considering the progress of Riken's reorganization.

Research misconduct is not a problem limited to Riken's CDB. It is important that all of Japan learn from the STAP cell issue.

毎日新聞 2014年08月29日 02時35分


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