Monday, January 02, 2006

USAToday: role of Korean government in Hwang-gate?

USAToday: South Korean reporters have claimed that a government science adviser knew a year ago that the ground could crumble under the work that would bring the country great fame and greater disgrace.

Of this, note that about a year ago was when the Korean government was passing a new law about egg donations (Jan 05) and that Hwang allegedly (see footnote 8 of the May 05 paper in Science) complied with the new law. But there wasn't enough time between "after the law was passed" and "when the paper was submitted [March 15, 05]" to do all the work in the March 15 paper.

I interject another thought. I suspect that the Pittsburgh fellow was concerned about more than just the ethics of the egg donations when he tried to get his name off the paper in Science.

As another wildcard, USAToday notes that Hwang has not exactly thrown in the towel:

Hwang reportedly stands by his work. "I definitely have the source technology to produce tailored embryonic stem cells," he was quoted as saying in the South Korean Buddhist newspaper Beopbo on Saturday.

"I can replicate the process any time," he said.

**Tournament model?

Brian Martinson, a research investigator who studies scientific integrity for the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Minneapolis, says the Hwang affair is the perfect example of the tournament model that operates in science.

"It's winner take all. In stem cell work right now, the first person to come in with the finding is going to get all the glory. That kind of competition adds urgency to things, and can cause people maybe not to monitor things as closely as they should," Martinson says.

I suggest that obtaining a patent is much more a tournament/foot race procedure than is publishing in Science or Nature. And, the USPTO has some safeguards built-in that are not present in scientific publishing.

There is a lurking issue as to both patents and publications with respect to the impact of a widely heralded, but false, assertion on later work in the field. There is a little taste of this in discussion of Jan-Hendrik Schon, post-fraud, as mentioned earlier on IPBiz. There is a different issue with the Exxon/Rice work on C60 (buckyball), wherein the first workers (Exxon) made the compound but didn't recognize the structure. As I have discussed, the winner of the foot race on buckyballs could have been different between the scientific publication world and the patent world.


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