Thursday, December 22, 2005

PD Notebook, the tv show that exposed Hwang, is gonzo

In a November 21 article, A Korean TV Show Reports, and the Network Cancels It, the New York Times got around to the involvement of MBC in the scandal involving Hwang Woo Suk.

According to the article, it was an anonymous post on a confidential Internet bulletin board maintained by ''PD Notebook,'' South Korea's leading investigative news show that got the ball rolling on an investigation into Hwang's research. [In passing, I note the case John Doe No. 1 v. Cahill, 2005 Del. LEXIS 381 about anonymous internet posts] According to the PD Notebook post, Dr. Hwang faked some of the human stem cell cloning data that had been published days earlier in Science [May 2005; to avoid some confusion that has appeared on the internet, I note that online version of the article appeared on 19 May 2005, 7 days after acceptance. The paper version of the article appeared on 17 June 2005 in Volume 308 of Science, at pages 1777-1783].

The show, PD Notebook, did one story on Hwang, and was going to do another, when a flap developed about coercive techniques used in interviews. And now PD Notebook is gone. On Saturday afternoon [Dec. 17] Choi Seung Ho, the ''PD Notebook'' executive producer sat unsmiling in his newsroom, dressed in black and blue, dragging occasionally on a menthol cigarette. Protesters had picketed his network, MBC. Death threats and photos of family members of his reporting team had been posted on the Internet. All 12 advertisers had fled the program. After 15 successful years of ''PD Notebook,'' MBC has pulled the plug.

from JAMES BROOKE, NY Times, 21 Dec. 2005, Section C; Column 1; Business/Financial Desk; MEDIA; Pg. 5

In an article in the Dec. 16, 2005 issue of Science (Vol. 310 at pp. 1748-1749), there is a mention of a DIFFERENT internet post, specifically one on the Biological Research Information Center [BRIC] website. This post was on or about December 5, 2005, and thus was much after the post on "PD Notebook" site. Shortly after the post on the BRIC site (ie, a span of hours), Dr. Hwang emailed the journal Science about problems with duplicate images in the May 2005 paper.

The Dec. 16 Science article has a quote from Alan Colman: "I'd still like to believe this is a case of sloppy presentation but good science."

Prophetically, material provided to Science by Korean sources was anonymous because the Koreans feared a backlash against what are perceived to be attacks on Hwang. In light of the fate of MBC's PD Notebook, this fear was reasonable.

Separately, although the Science article mentions possible problems with the images of the nuclear DNA fingerprints, it does not mention the issue of mitochondrial DNA.

One notes that, in the timetable of Hwang, results on the five remaining specimens should be available next week (ie after Christmas and before New Year's). At that point, we'll get some idea about the sloppy presentation/good science conjecture.


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