A lengthy front-page story in the Washington Post on Tuesday appeared to cast doubts on the work of Taiwanese scientist Lin Yu-yi (林育誼), who was found dead in his office in August last year.
“Behind acclaimed research, doubts,” the headline read.
The Post quoted the Taipei Times from last year as saying that Lin’s research — published in the prestigious journal Nature — had led to the discovery of the key mechanism for maintaining cell energy balance — “believed to be linked to cellular aging and cancer.”
Lin’s body was surrounded by injection bottles of sedatives and muscle relaxants and there was a pinhole on his left arm and a fresh bruise on his forehead.
“Police ruled out suicide, as no suicide note was found at the scene and, according to Lin’s family members, everything was going well with his wife and family,” the Taipei Times reported.
Lin, 38, had been working as an assistant professor at National Taiwan University College of Medicine’s Graduate Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Prior to returning to Taiwan, Lin worked at a laboratory connected to the Johns Hopkins Medical School in Maryland, funded by the US National Institutes of Health.
It was in Maryland that he completed his major work, and as Lin began to publish his work, Daniel Yuan — a statistician in Lin’s lab — questioned the findings, telling colleagues they did not “make sense.”
Yuan eventually wrote a detailed criticism of the paper written by Lin and his team and sent it to Johns Hopkins and to Nature.
The journal told him that a correction was “probably” going to be written and the university has now told the Washington Post that a correction has been submitted to Nature and is now under review.
“Neither the journal nor the university would disclose the nature of the correction,” the Washington Post said.
The Post also reported that last year research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud have increased tenfold since 1975.
According to the Post, Yuan was “astonished” when he read Lin’s paper to find that Lin had used what Yuan considered a flawed method for finding genetic interactions.
Yuan concluded that there was essentially no evidence to support some of Lin’s scientific conclusions.
After Yuan began to press his case and push Nature to publish his criticism, Lin and his team were asked for an explanation.
Soon after that, Lin’s body was found in his office at National Taiwan University.
By then, Yuan had been forced from his job at Johns Hopkins University.
The Post said that within hours of Lin’s body being discovered an e-mail was sent by an unknown person from Lin’s account to Yuan.
It essentially blamed Yuan for driving Lin to suicide.
“Yu-yi passed away this morning. Now you must be very satisfied with your success,” the e-mail said.