Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Stanford Daily on Hwang fraud

The Stanford Daily has quotes from Irving Weissman, Stanford professor of developmental biology.

In addition to the fraudulent aspects of Hwang’s work, his research methods were unsound. He admitted in November that some of the eggs used in his research were obtained from females who worked in the lab. Irving Weissman, a Stanford professor of developmental biology, explains that this was “not allowable as his authority over them could not have allowed free choice.”

Weissman adds that this could not occur at Stanford, given the amount of oversight present and because junior faculty are independent — unlike the hierarchy present in Hwang’s lab.

“In the United States, every faculty member is independent in deciding what research line they wish to follow, each grant they submit, etc.,” Weissman says. “In many countries, the funds flow to the senior professor, who hires and funds the associate and assistant professors. This gives the professor enormous power over the ideas and careers of the faculty under him or her. I don’t know the exact hierarchy in Hwang’s lab, but it follows the latter tradition.”

Negative consequences from this work were also felt by other researchers. Weissman says that Hwang’s reported success with schematic cell nuclear transfer “had the effect of dampening other labs to develop any other method, as obtaining eggs for less efficient methods would not pass medical ethical oversight.”

Finally, the incident carries consequences for scientific journals.

“The way in which his experiments were accepted into Science will be examined,” Scott says. “The journal’s editor in chief, Donald Kennedy, announced yesterday that the magazine would review the procedures for peer-review.”

Weissman argues that it takes more than publication in a respected journal for a finding to be accepted.

“Most scientists don’t accept a finding as true simply because it’s published in a peer-reviewed journal — anyone can send a journal fabricated or selected data, and no reviewer could detect it if it was done cleverly,” Weissman says. “We all wait for independent, well-qualified labs to repeat the findings. And if the discovery is robust, we expect that it will be revealed however one approaches the problem. So this is not new to the research community, and will not affect those who wish to carry forward the research.”

Weissman does not note that when scientists reported an INABILITY to duplicate Schon's results, the high impact journals REFUSED to publish the negative results. In the meantime, millions of federal dollars were being spent to follow up on Schon's fraudulent work.

[IPBiz post 1157]


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