Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yonhap on Brauman panel investigating fraudulent work of Hwang Woo Suk

On Nov. 28, Yonhap began a story about the Brauman panel investigating the Hwang fraud: An external committee [Brauman panel] investigating the handling of fraudulent papers by a South Korean scientist [Hwang] concluded Tuesday that the journal that published the papers would have been able to detect the fraud if it exercised due scrutiny.

In its reporting, Yonhap emphasized text from the Brauman panel about what the journal Science could have done:

"Some additional procedures would have detected this fraud," the
committee report said.

"In retrospect, even within the existing procedures, we suggest
that the reviewers and editors should have given more attention to some of the
incomplete answers, both experimental and administrative, provided by
the authors," it said.

Yonhap noted that Science editors were aware of problems:

The editors were aware of major potential flaws in both papers,
specifically the repeated photos of the stem cells, it said, "This possibility
should have been pursued and eliminated."

[from Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire Yonhap]

A Dec. 6 article in Investor's Business Daily did not mention the impact of the Hwang fraud on stem cell research. However, it did observe the following:

Public money is no better than private money in reaching a
medical cure for AIDS, Alzheimer's disease and lupus. The only difference is, the
private sector has an obligation to use its cash efficiently, and show results --
something no government institute is obliged to do. [IPBiz: what obligation did the journal Science have to its readers, or to the scientific community?]

Moral qualms aside, stem cell research is worthwhile only if it
shows meaningful results.

To date, the private sector has spent only $120 million on this
research. Virtually all of it has gone into adult and umbilical-cord stem-cell
research. Bill Gates, for instance, has spent only $2 million on it, and all of
it in China.

Yet 72 treatments have emerged from adult and umbilical stem-cell
research -- and none from embryonic stem-cell research -- showing the market's

[The article concluded -->]

Boondoggles: Californians were promised wonder cures if they
passed Proposition 71 to fund stem-cell research in 2004. Turns out they have
bought a $3 billion jug of snake oil.

In 88 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc'y [JPTOS] 239 (March 2006), I noted at page 255:

The failure of editors and referees of the journal Science to detect
the fraud in manuscripts of Woo Suk Hwang prior to publication, and the
widespread acceptance of the work after publication, illustrates some difficulties
in relying on peer review to authenticate the validity of scientific work.
Neither journals nor the USPTO have the resources to perform experiments or
even to rigorously review the authenticity of data. Under existing review
protocols, fraudulent science or even bad science can pass review. An increase in
the amount of time spent in review could enable the discovery of errors
such as duplicated figures or graphs, but would likely be ineffective against a
dedicated advocate of fraud.

States wishing to fund research in the area of embyronic cell
transfer, or in any area of cutting-edge research, will be well advised to note the
difficulty in assessing the validity of work at early stages. Further, states
should also note that the probability of securing money from patent royalties from
patents on early stage work is not high. Further, in the area of work regulated
by the FDA, the broad scope of protection from patent infringement offered by
35 USC 271(e)(1) may render early patents in a developing area of low economic


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