Recently a slurry of fact checking has ensued regarding the research and scientific affiliations of Japanese stem cell researcher, Hisashi Moriguchi. The controversy arose after Moriguchi submitted a paper abstract to a New York conference wherein he presented cutting-edge stem-cell research involving cardiac patients receiving induced pluripotent stem cells during surgery. The reported research was “eye catching” and drew intense interest from the stem cell research community. And with this interest came some unwanted attention. Upon closer investigation it was observed that Moriguchi’s cited secondary association with Harvard Medical School did not in fact exist. Further investigation revealed that Moriguchi has been citing this false association with Harvard for years, including listing the association on published articles in high-impact journals, such as Scientific Reporter (a Nature journal) and Hepatology. These journals acknowledged that confirmation of author affiliations is not part of their peer-review process.
The circumstances surrounding Moriguchi’s fraudulent name-dropping emphasizes the potential hazard associated with peer-review that is not blind. The presence of respected associations could introduce bias regarding the reliability of a scientist’s research. Furthermore, the lack of confirmation for these affiliations enhances the risk of undeserved bias. For instance, the scientists who reviewed Moriguchi’s research may have seen his listed association with Harvard and thereby been less critical of his research findings. Thus, to avoid the potential for unwarranted bias in the peer review process, articles should be reviewed blindly. In that circumstance the science would be reviewed at its facial value and no unfair influence would be given for a researcher’s prestige or associations.