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Hwang to Lose ‘Top Scientist’ Title

Posted January. 06, 2006 03:23,   


As Seoul National University (SNU) examines the result of research done by professor Hwang Woo-suk’s team, it is now agonizing over the severity of punishment to be meted out to the co-authors of Hwang’s paper.

The SNU investigation committee announced yesterday, “Unlike what was reported in some media, the official stand of SNU is not to reprimand all the co-authors.” It added that the school would announce its official stand and take response measures after the committee reports its final investigation results.

It went on by saying: “The SNU disciplinary committee will decide the severity of punishment by referring to our report.”

However, SNU is collecting opinions from its faculty on how and when to announce its stand.

Some SNU professors argue that not only Hwang, but also veterinary professor Kang Seong-geun, a leading co-author, and those involved should be reprimanded now that it has been discovered that their paper in the 2005 edition of Science is fake. Yet, faculty members are divided over the issue as others claim that the bioengineering team of the College of Veterinary Science should be provided with funding for sustained research.

Out of the 25 co-authors of the 2005 paper, 13 professors, including Hwang, are SNU faculty members.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Science and Technology said yesterday that it would hold its Best Scientist Selection Committee within next week to discuss ways to divest Hwang of his status of Korea’s best scientist.

It is true that the investigation result to be announced by the SNU investigation committee on January 9 will have a decisive impact on whether Hwang will be deprived of the status. Still, the deprivation appears to be unavoidable, as it has been discovered that there are no “patient specific stem cells.”

The Ministry of Science and Technology selected Hwang as the “Top Scientist” on June 24 last year and decided to offer him yearly research aid of three billion won for up to five years. Hwang was granted three billion won in aid from the ministry in 2004, but the financial support will be halted starting this year if his status is cancelled.

An official from the ministry noted, “We plan to select second and third Top Scientists before long, as the support program for best scientists should go on regardless of the Hwang issue.”

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com wolfkim@donga.com