Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More Hwang

Although I'm certain some of you reading this blog are getting bored of Hwang, I can never seem to get sick of writing about the various new exploits he seems to have performed. The Korean times has an article up with this little juicy tid-bit:

Prof. Hwang Woo-suk plagiarized his subordinate’s work on the first-ever cloned human embryonic stem cells that was featured in the U.S. journal Science in early 2004, some scientists argued Friday.

The scientists contend a stem cell photo featured in the 2004 paper partially overlaps that of an article in another journal Stem Cells that was authored in 2003 by Kim Son-jong, a member of Hwang’s team.

So he fabricated his results by using photos taken at slightly different positions, used photoshop to play with DNA sequence traces and he plagiarized the work of one of his students. That's quite a lot of different fabrication skills on offer there, it's just a shame they aren't the kind you are wanting to have in science.

As to the question that Skeptyk posed in a comment to my last post about Hwang:
But why? Why would he falsify? He has to know that it would be found out, and quickly. What possible short term gain is worth such self-destruction?
Well, it's a good question that. With the depth of the deception and the fact there was no 'beef' to present when people asked for it, you'd have to wonder how he thought it would all end. Perhaps if it wasn't for those meddling students he would have gotten away with it, but ultimately it must have just been the sheer pressure of the field that led him to do it. Although it's not something I like to admit, in any area of science there are immense pressures to publish first and for the associated parties like the University to get patents in before anyone else. It's the competitive nature of science combined with a complete lack of proper regulation or ethics, which led to this situation.

As I've stated earlier, it won't just the sheer depth of the falsification that is remarkable in this case but also the number of individuals that will be involved. After some thought, the only way he could have gotten away with it is if he had support all the way up (including from government funding sources). My guess is that he felt the technique would 'work' and they published first to beat everyone else to the punch and gain the potential patents or awards.

Finally, this is the last I'll post about Hwang for a while I promise unless something else exceptional happens, like the snuppy paper turns out to be fake. I'll find another obsession to blog about for a while :p