A second leading scientific journal announced January 13, 2006 that editors will review financial disclosure procedures for authors who submit research papers in light of the South Korean cloning scandal.
"We have been made aware that there may be a breach of our policies, and we'll look into it," said Ruth Francis, press officer for Nature, a British journal. "If there has been a breach, we will work with the authors to ensure a correction."
A paper published in Nature in August 2005 by disgraced Korean scientist Hwang Woo-Suk did not list any conflict-of-interest disclosures. University of Pittsburgh reproductive biologist Gerald Schatten was listed as senior author on the paper, which was about research that purportedly created the world's first cloned dog.
Hwang has at least seven patent applications related to cloning or stem cells filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization, all of which predated the publication of the 2005 paper.
Schatten and Pitt scientists Calvin Simerly and Christopher Navara filed a U.S. patent application April 21, 2003, for "Methods for producing transgenic animals."
Nature requires authors to disclose "patents or patent applications whose value may be affected by publication." A shortened version of the declaration is then published with the paper.
"There can be no doubt that Drs. Hwang and Schatten violated the Nature policy" by not disclosing these patent applications for technologies related to their paper, said Merrill Goozner, who directs the Integrity in Science project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based science watchdog nonprofit group.
In a letter to Nature editor-in-chief Philip Campbell, Goozner recommended a three-year ban on publishing in the journal should an author violate its financial disclosure policy.
Pitt spokeswoman Michele Baum declined comment. A university panel is investigating whether Schatten engaged in scientific misconduct in connection with the Korean research. Schatten could not be reached for comment.
On Thursday, the editors of the journal Science announced a review of financial disclosure procedures in connection with Hwang papers published in March 2004 and June 2005. Schatten served as senior author on the latter paper and helped Hwang to publish the first.
The papers falsely claimed that scientists had created embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos, a Seoul National University panel ruled this week.
Science officially retracted the papers Thursday.
"Because the final report of the SNU investigation indicated that a significant amount of the data presented in both papers is fabricated, the editors of Science feel that an immediate and unconditional retraction of both papers is needed," wrote Science editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy.
Six of the 15 authors of the 2004 Science paper agreed to the retraction, while all 25 authors of the 2005 paper gave their consent, Kennedy said.
Stem-cell scientists must cooperate more with colleagues in other countries to reduce the risk of further flawed findings, a international research group said yesterday.
"If one thinks about how the situation in South Korea could have been avoided, the key must surely have been collaboration, exchange of information and openness," said Colin Blakemore, chairman of the International Stem Cell Forum.
He spoke to reporters yesterday in Paris. Members of the ISCF include medical and research groups from 17 countries. South Korea is not a member, but the group said its members were ready to work with South Korean researchers.
"There is no doubt that is has given a very bad impression of science," said Blakemore, who is also chief executive of Britain's Medical Research Council.
"But it is important to emphasize that that problem -- the problem of fraud and misrepresentation in science -- is a generic problem, it could apply in any area of science."
***Earlier, from Jennifer Bails:
Spurred by the Korean cloning scandal, editors of Science said Thursday they will review financial reporting procedures for scientists submitting papers to the journal.
Science requires manuscript authors to disclose any "planned, pending, or awarded patent on this work by you or your institution." Science editors then determine whether the disclosure should be published as part of the article.
Two fraudulent papers published in Science by disgraced Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk in March 2004 and June 2005 did not include any conflict-of-interest disclosures. University of Pittsburgh biologist Gerald Schatten was listed as senior author of the 2005 paper.
Schatten also acted as a liaison between the editors of Science and Hwang while the 2004 paper was under review, although Schatten's name did not appear on the article.
The papers, now being retracted, falsely claimed that scientists had created embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos.
Whoever holds the patent for creating embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos could earn a fortune if the technology works. Anyone wanting to use the technology or the patented cells to find cures to disease or injury would have to pay the patent-holder to license it.
Hwang has at least seven patent applications related to cloning or stem cells with the World Intellectual Property Organization, all of which predated publication of the 2005 paper.
Schatten and Pitt scientists Calvin Simerly and Christopher Navara filed a U.S. patent application April 9, 2004, for methods that would make human cloning "a practical procedure." These methods also could be used to derive embryonic stem cells to treat disease, according to the application.
Neither Hwang nor Schatten list each other as co-inventors on their patent applications.
In the conflict-of-interest statement supplied to Science for the 2005 paper, Hwang replied on behalf of all authors and checked a box to designate that a patent was "anticipated, applied for, or held," according to Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy. He did not supply requested details about the patent, Kennedy said.
"At this point, we do not know whether the patent is awarded or expected, and whether it is Dr. Hwang's or one of the other authors,'" Kennedy said in an e-mail response to questions. "Our retrospective review of our procedures that we will be conducting shortly will include an evaluation of our conflict-of-interest policies."
Pitt spokeswoman Michele Baum said no one from the university would comment about the patent situation until a closed-door panel completes its investigation to determine if Schatten engaged in scientific misconduct in connection with the Korean research. A ruling is expected next month.