Saturday, December 02, 2006

Brauman report on Hwang fraud issues

In May 2006, IPBiz discussed the Brauman panel, formed by the journal Science to look into problems associated with the publication by Science of fraudulent work by Hwang Woo Suk.

On November 29, 2006, AFP reported:

Science top editor Donald Kennedy said in a letter published on the journal's website Tuesday [Nov. 28] that it accepts the conclusions of a panel looking into the fiasco and vows to elaborate new rules to prevent such fraud.

The six-member panel report "points out forcefully that the environment for science now presents increased incentives for the production of work that is intentionally misleading or distorted by self-interest," he wrote.

The report "urges us to give a special attention to a relatively small number of papers that are likely to be especially visible or influential."

Research papers that may fall in that category include those "that are of substantial public interest, present results that are unexpected and/or counterintuitive, or touch on area of high political controversy." [IPBiz notes: ie, exactly the kind of papers Science routinely publishes!]

Donald Kennedy's editorial begins:

Our journal--as well as science with a small "s"--went through a disappointing and troubling experience with the two stem cell papers from the South Korean research group led by Dr. Woo Suk Hwang. As a result of an investigation by a committee from Seoul National University, the first paper from this group, Science 303, 1669 (2004), was found to be fraudulent and was subsequently retracted by Science. A second paper, Science 308, 1777 (2005), published a year later, was retracted for the same reasons.

What Science did then entailed two steps. First, we compiled a chronological anthology of the editorial review process for both papers; it included all submissions; correspondence among editors, our Board of Reviewing Editors, peer reviewers, authors, and agencies responsible for regulatory oversight in South Korea; and notes on telephone conversations. This material was reviewed by an internal review committee of six in-house editors. This archive and their comments were then sent to an outside committee consisting of three members of our external Senior Editorial Board (John Brauman, George Whitesides, and Linda Partridge), a former Science senior editor who is now the U.S. Executive Editor at Nature (Linda Miller), and two distinguished biologists who work in the stem cell community (Doug Melton and John Gearhart). The committee was asked to make a thorough and unsparing analysis of Science's handling of both papers and to make recommendations for changes in procedure that might protect both the journal and the scientific community from further unfortunate outcomes of this kind.

The report, and a short response from Science, are available at The report is notable for its thoroughness, insight, and candor. It reaches several conclusions; some of these apply to our journal and to those of us who edit and publish it, and others are relevant for the larger community of scientists. The good news for Science is that its editors and peer reviewers not only followed the procedures in place here and at other top-tier journals, but made a substantially greater effort than for most papers to ensure that the science was sound. The not-so-good news is that the report sends us some tough messages about what Science should do to confront a present reality and prepare for a more challenging future. It points out forcefully that the environment for science now presents increased incentives for the production of work that is intentionally misleading or distorted by self-interest. It urges us to give special attention to a relatively small number of papers that are likely to be especially visible or influential.

The citation for the editorial is Science, Vol. 314. no. 5804, p. 1353 (1 Dec. 2006) and it is available here .

IPBiz notes that the Brauman report is only four pages long, and is presented under a cover letter dated Sept. 15. Kennedy's acknowledgement of the report is dated Oct. 24. The report was not publicly disclosed until the end of November. The report does not mention a discussion of issues with the Hwang work that appeared in 88 JPTOS 239 (March 2006).

Patent attorneys should note that the same December 1, 2006 issue of Science contains the article: When Patents Threaten Science by Lori Andrews, Jordan Paradise, Timothy Holbrook, and Danielle Bochneak. Science, Vol. 314. no. 5804, pp. 1395 - 1396

There has been no word from Science on their misreporting of continuations in patent law. See 88 JPTOS 743 (Sept. 2006).

MedicalNewsToday reported:

Brauman recommended that Science:

Develop a risk-assessment method for high-profile papers for further review;

Require study authors to specify their individual contributions to a paper;

Require researchers to publish online more of the raw data on which a scientific report is based; and

Collaborate with Nature and other leading journals to establish common standards for reviewing papers (Wade, New York Times, 11/29).


Forbes, via AP, quoted Brauman: "We're concerned that science continued to be viewed by the public as an enterprise in which truth is paramount."

The Seattle Post Intelligencer republished the piece by Nicholas Wade in the New York Times. Wade's article began:

Fraudulent stem cell reports that shook the scientific world could have been prevented by extra review procedures, according to a panel appointed by Science, the journal that published the claims.


Science has long taken the position that its reviewing procedures work well but cannot be expected to detect deliberate fraud; therefore, no change is necessary.

But the spectacular nature of the fraud prompted deeper than usual soul-searching on the part of leading journals.

Dan Vergano of USAToday noted: the fraud findings led to university investigations, firings, prosecutions and criticism of Science's system of peer review, in which experts independently assess whether study results should be published. Peer review is a bedrock of modern science.

"Progress in science depends on breakthroughs and in taking risks, both in research and in publishing," says the review committee formed by Science and headed by Stanford University's John Brauman.

Unlike many of the other articles, Vergano alluded to the Schon fraud. Vergano also mentioned:

[Nicholas] Steneck notes the panel found reviewers accepted incomplete answers to questions about Hwang's work. "Misconduct is not rare and, as the Hwang and Schön cases both demonstrate, had the research network surrounding each done its job, the misconduct would have been caught much earlier," he says in an e-mail.

Even so, "current peer review procedures are based on trust," says Brian Martinson of HealthPartners Research Foundation in Minneapolis. "The report makes clear that is an increasingly risky position to take."

IPBiz notes none of the news reports mentioned that NONE of the 23 co-authors of the second Hwang paper participated in the drafting of the paper or were informed that it was submitted. IPBiz notes that, although Science was apprised of patent applications related to the submitted work, no further inquiry was made by Science into the possibility of conflicts of interest.

**UPDATE. Dec. 20, 2006**

This post was indexed by Google, then not indexed, then indexed through Dec. 19, 2006. As of Dec. 20, 2006, this post is NOT indexed by Google.

[IPBiz post 2238]


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