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Kyoto Univ. advises professor to withdraw paper on Kumamoto quakes due to 'irregularities'

KYOTO -- Kyoto University announced on March 26 that a scientific paper on the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes released by a professor at its graduate school contained irregularities such as data tampering and misappropriation and that it has advised him to withdraw the paper.

Graduate School of Science professor Aiming Lin, who specializes in earthquake geology, is accused of publishing the paper in question in the U.S. journal Science in October 2016. Lin, who served as the lead author of the article, has denied the accusations, saying he only made "careless mistakes."

The paper claims that the magma chamber below Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, likely played a role in preventing further destruction of a fault that slipped northeastward from the epicenter in one of the April 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes.

According to the university, a whistleblower pointed out in August 2017 that the paper contained numerous mistakes and suspected falsifications through illicit use of data, sparking an investigation by a fact-finding panel set up by the university.

The panel confirmed that the chart of the Aso caldera had been stretched. Furthermore, the paper was found to have failed to specify the source when it quoted data from the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, and inverted a diagram from the Earthquake Research Institute of the University of Tokyo. Altogether, 10 instances of data misappropriations and falsifications were found in four separate charts.

Although Kyoto University concluded that it could not determine whether the irregularities were intentional, it is set to take disciplinary action against the professor shortly.

Lin argues that the paper's conclusion remains unchanged even after the panel's finding.

(Japanese original by Mai Suganuma, Kyoto Bureau)

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