Research Misconduct in the Age of Open Science: The Case of STAP Stem Cells

Mianna Meskus, Luca Marelli, Giuseppe D'Agostino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In early 2014, Dr Haruko Obokata and her co-authors caused a global media storm by publishing two scientific papers in Nature on stem cells. The papers proposed a surprisingly simple new method called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) to generate pluripotent stem cells for research purposes in a fast and inexpensive way. To the dismay of many, both papers were retracted within six months of their release due to data fabrication and falsification. The rise and fall of the STAP research illustrates the impacts of open science practices of quality control and validation on new scientific claims. In the STAP case, collective action generated through two online forums—the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog and PubPeer—exposed not only data manipulation in the two papers but also the irreproducibility of the purported new cellular reprogramming method. The case brings to the fore the tentative possibilities as well as potential pitfalls of ‘accelerated virtual witnessing’ through crowdsourced post-publication peer reviews that value accessibility and inclusiveness. Indeed, it calls for empirically grounded discussion on the ongoing reconfiguration of the shared system of values and norms or the moral economy of science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalScience as Culture
Publication statusAccepted/In press - May 4 2017


  • moral economy of science
  • open science
  • scientific misconduct
  • STAP
  • stem cell research
  • technologies of virtual witnessing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Research Misconduct in the Age of Open Science: The Case of STAP Stem Cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this