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Research team released questionable data on Kumamoto quake disaster

Stone walls and roof tiles of Kumamoto Castle are seen collapsed in the city of Kumamoto after a powerful earthquake in the Kyushu region, in this picture taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on April 15, 2016.

A team of researchers from Osaka University, Kyoto University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) compiled a paper on the April 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake disaster that was based on questionable observation data, it was learned on Oct. 2.

    Consequently, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Osaka University have commenced an investigation into the matter, and related papers are set to be dropped.

    According to a message released on a website connected to one of the research team members -- associate professor Hiroyuki Goto of Kyoto University -- it was reported in a 2016 paper that an extremely high vibration level had been detected by a seismograph in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture.

    In September 2017, it was pointed out anonymously to Goto that this observation data had been falsified -- prompting him to examine the data closely, and discover that there was a huge problem. Meanwhile, an associate professor from Osaka University, who was apparently in charge of collating the data, has declined to take part in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The team's data had been online since July 2016, but it is currently suspended. According to sources including the education ministry, the data has not had an adverse effect on government reports about the earthquake disaster or government policy, or the records of quakes in Mashiki registering a maximum 7 on the 7-point Japanese seismic scale.

    An apology is posted on Goto's homepage, saying, "Some problematic data has gone into circulation, and I am partly responsible for this happening. I am sincerely sorry." In addition, on the website of Masayuki Yoshimi, a senior researcher at AIST, he says, "We are responding sincerely in our efforts to clarify the facts regarding this data. My immaturity regarding this issue has really hit home."

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