Bob Park on Brauman Panel Report on Hwang Fraud
It is not unethical to be wrong. Every scientist will at times be wrong, but we assume that authors of science papers THINK they got it right. The rewards of success are so high in certain areas, however, that it must be tempting to guess the answer without doing the research. We saw it in 2002 with Jan Hendrik Schoen at Bell Labs, and again in 2004 with the stem cell work of Woo Suk Hwang at Seoul National University. In the Hwang case, Science, which published the work, immediately retracted the two papers and began a thorough review of the peer review procedure. The report urges scientists to give special attention to research results that are especially visible or influential. Today, in a Science editorial, Donald Kennedy invites comments.
IPBiz makes a few comments:
#1. To this day, Hwang Woo Suk still maintains the first paper in Science (published in 2004) is correct.
#2. Because Hwang Woo Suk didn't tell his co-authors that he had drafted AND submitted the second paper, Hwang was "tricked" into using false data by one of his co-authors. There were TWO frauds going on, not one.
#3. To say Science "immediately retracted" the two papers is wishful retroactive thinking on Park's part. First, Science was tipped off to the substance of reports of Hwang fraud on the tv show "PD Notebook," but did nothing. Second, Science effectively got a warning from Schatten's request to have his name removed from the second paper. Schatten's manifest problem concerned egg donation/ethics issues, which from the timing of the paper's evolution were not trivial difficulties. It is unethical to break laws, and problematic to cast a blind eye to illegal activities. Third, Science ignored a financial conflict of interest problem (the patent applications). Fourth, rather than issuing a warning about the papers, Science attempted to get the approval of all co-authors to effect retraction.
#4. Although a manifest problem with the second paper was that the submission occurred IN THE ABSENCE OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBMISSION OF OVER 20 CO-AUTHORS, the panel did not deal with that issue. The panel did recommend discussion of the contribution of each co-author. In the patent business, all co-inventors must sign a declaration asserting knowledge of the application.