Scientist recalls how stem cell case exemplifies research integrity

18. September 2007 18:52

Scientist recalls how stem cell case exemplifies research integrity

Research misconduct could be monitored on many levels - besides focusing on individual researchers’ behaviour the right mix of regulation or guidelines could also help combat misconduct as this has been proven effective in countries such as the U.S,  Japan and Germany. But good research conduct goes beyond these levels as the role of media and the science community could also affect research integrity.

Herbert Gottweis from the University of Vienna has highlighted the South Korean stem cell case scandal as an example to showcase how important the issue research integrity is at the World Conference on Research Integrity taking place this week in Lisbon,: He presented the case study The Hwang-gate, the rise and fall of the “Pride of Korea” referring to a worldwide fraud that has shook up the world in 2005.
Hwang Woo-Suk is a South Korean biomedical scientist and a former professor of theriogenology and biotechnology at Seoul National University who rose to international fame after claiming a series of remarkable breakthroughs in the field of stem cell research. Until November 2005, he was considered one of the pioneering experts in the field of stem cell research, best known for two articles published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005 where he fraudulently reported to have succeeded in creating human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Both papers have been editorially retracted after being found to contain a large amount of fabricated data. He has admitted to various lies and frauds.
Three weeks before the fraud case was discovered Gottweis was actually visiting Hwang at his institute in order to learn  more about the research system in Korea which allows Hwang’s success. Looking deeper into the case Gottweis realised Hwang has knitted a far reaching network covering not only the scientific community and academic bodies, but also reaching out to government, political circles, industry and the media. According to Gottweis, Hwang could be so successful has a lot to do with stem cell researchers world wide were desperately to see the result that he fabricated become reality Stem cells from cloned cells.
“Hyping science can lead to fraudulent science , peer-review is no substitute for good science governance , and research integrity is increasingly a matter of network integrity”, added Gottweis
In an effort to address the urgent need for fighting fraud, forgery and plagiarism in science world-wide, the very first World Conference on Research Integrity is taking place this week to facilitate an unprecedented global effort to foster responsible research in Lisbon, Portugal from 16 to 19 September 2007.  The event is initiated and organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the US Office for Research Integrity (ORI). It marks a milestone for the science community as it will link all those concerned parties in a global effort to tackle the issue head on.


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