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#1 Burgess Laughlin

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 07:46 PM

Fraud Exposed

Science works. In a free society, or usually even in a semi-free society, major errors and frauds aren't likely to survive undetected.

The linked article, on the BBC website, appears to be an early report and may be garbled. It is certainly jumbled in presentation. However, if its reports about the reactions of some South Korean advertisers are accurate, then this affair has revealed a flaw in South Korean culture -- placing "patriotism" above objectivity.

What is most intriguing to me is not the corruption revealed, but the fact that science -- the vast social network of scientists around the world -- is largely dedicated to objectivity. Another comfort is to see the positive effects that can come when debate and criticism are unrestricted -- thus placing pressure on sloppy or dishonest "scientists" to confess even before full disclosure.

Again, I note that this may be an early mass-media report and thus not as reliable as later reports will be. I look forward to finding out more about the situation and what it reveals -- good and bad -- about the state of Western (and semi-Western) culture.
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#2 Aurelia

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 01:20 AM

I look forward to finding out more about the situation and what it reveals -- good and bad -- about the state of Western (and semi-Western) culture.

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Thank you, Mr. Laughlin, so do I. They don't say exactly what was wrong about the experiments/paper except that, "Mr Roh has said that a scientist working in Dr Hwang's laboratory was pressured into doctoring results to make the embryos look like clones" That doesn't say much about the research, but there'll probably be better coverage in science journals soon.

You're right, science can be such a refreshing field in this way, when the standard is the truth of reality. :D

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#3 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 05:04 AM

They don't say exactly what was wrong about the experiments/paper except that, "Mr Roh has said that a scientist working in Dr Hwang's laboratory was pressured into doctoring results to make the embryos look like clones"

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Well, I can tell you this much: What has been called into question is the researchers' claim to have created embryonic stem cell lines that match the DNA of their patients. In several instances the DNA fingerprinting that purports to show the genetic match appears to be too perfect in their alignment, and in other cases the background noise appears to be very much the same. There are several different techniques that have been developed to perform DNA fingerprinting and the techniques introduce variables that rarely result in matches that exceed a certain probability. The best way to resolve the issue is to have the DNA fingerprinting redone by an expert in the field (there are many) who is not involved in this particular research.
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#4 tommyedison

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Posted 16 December 2005 - 01:13 PM

I was surprised by how much this incident has affected South Korea. I mean the stock markets have plummeted and the Prime Minister has called for an emergency meeting.
I can understand about the stock markets but the an emergency meeting by the Prime Minister??? Ridiculous.

#5 Burgess Laughlin

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 02:08 AM

The latest news confirms earlier charges of fraud. If news reports are accurate, then I can see that plenty of people value objectivity. Of course, as this article indicates, there are a few supporters of the disgraced "scientist" who "want to believe."

The part that puzzles me is why this fraud took so long to emerge. Is it because most of the people involved saw only a part of the problem and therefore didn't raise questions or objections sooner? Or were they cowed by "authority" and afraid of losing their jobs? Or was there some other reason?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10636721/
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#6 tommyedison

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 03:38 AM

Is it because most of the people involved saw only a part of the problem and therefore didn't raise questions or objections sooner? Or were they cowed by "authority" and afraid of losing their jobs? Or was there some other reason?


From what I have read in news reports, Hwang organized his lab like an industrial mass manufacturing shop with several small teams each specializing in a certain field in cloning. They worked separately and had little idea of the work the other team was doing. Thus it was easy to fabricate the results without the knowledge of other scientists working on this.

According to this (link) Washington Post article, bribery might also have played a role to a certain extent.

#7 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 30 December 2005 - 03:48 AM

The latest news confirms earlier charges of fraud. If news reports are accurate, then I can see that plenty of people value objectivity. Of course, as this article indicates, there are a few supporters of the disgraced "scientist" who "want to believe."

The part that puzzles me is why this fraud took so long to emerge. Is it because most of the people involved saw only a part of the problem and therefore didn't raise questions or objections sooner? Or were they cowed by "authority" and afraid of losing their jobs? Or was there some other reason?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10636721/

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It is possible, though not typical, that Dr. Hwang's work is completely fraudulent. Though, in recent times, the single most circumstances involving scientific fraud is among scientists who think their work to be correct, and they then manipulate experimental data as a shortcut to what otherwise might require many years to properly demonstrate. Without a much more detailed investigation than that done by Dr. Hwang's university, it will be difficult to assess all of the factors involved. As damning as the current evidence appears, I caution against drawing too firm a conclusion.

For almost a decade I myself followed with great interest another notorious case of scientific fraud in the field of biology. The charges levelled, and the subsequent conviction of fraud made front-page news, but the eventual exoneration a decade later was naught but a back-page retraction. Casual sources reveal the worst, but truth and justice sometimes requires deeper investigation. Here is a short post I made to HBL about six years ago when charges of fraud were made on that forum against those whom I value and know to be innocent.

************************************************
Boy, did XXXXX pick the wrong case to justify his position!
Thereza Imanishi-Kari was a victim, and David Baltimore is a
hero! Baltimore fought a decade long battle in support of his
colleague because he knew she was innocent. He fought against the
exact kind of falsehoods which XXXXX repeats above.

Baltimore, a Nobel Prize winner, was the senior author of a paper
appearing in a 1986 issue of the journal _Cell_. Imanishi-Kari
was one of six coauthors, and it was a deceitful young scientist
in her lab who initially accused her of fraud. The government
performed a witch-hunt and the media sensationalized the story.
In June of 1996, a decade after publication--a decade where
careers were destroyed by ignorant people who abused their
investigative authority, destroyed by over-zealous bureaucrats
who manipulated the case--Imanishi-Kari was, finally, completely
exonerated on _all_ counts.

I admire David Baltimore's integrity and courage, and I am
saddened by the toll of injustice inflicted on Imanishi-Kari.
Yet, almost fifteen years later, they are here still being
treated to the same injustice. David Baltimore is now president
of Caltech, and I feel _privileged_ to have spoken with him
personally, and to have let him know how much I admire his
courage and will to fight for what is right.

Anyone interested in the facts of this fraudulent accusation of
fraud, and interested in learning about the wrath of those who do
not understand science, could do no better than to read Daniel
Kevles book, "The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science,
and Character", W. W. Norton and Company, 1998.
**********************************************

From the little I know Dr. Hwang does not appear to me to be of the caliber of a David Baltimore, and indeed he may be entirely guilty of complete fraud, but I have seen first-hand how influential a sensationalizing media can be to those investigators who are more beholding to politics than to truth.
Stephen
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