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[Editorial] Stem Cell Scandal Lessons

Posted January. 11, 2006 03:04,   


Hwang Woo-Suk’s team at the Seoul National University (SNU) was finally confirmed to have failed in creating stem cells. The SNU’s investigation panel unveiled its final study results yesterday that the “original technology” confidently claimed by professor Hwang until the last minute “does not exist currently.”

We do not want merely to discuss the shock and disappointment time and time again. The fact-finding efforts must continue further, including the prosecution’s investigation. As the 2004 and 2005 papers registered in Science, the scientific journal, have been found to have been written through test data or photo fabrication without the claimed stem cells, the fabrication liabilities and the extent of the participation of the papers’ co-authors must be clarified. The wrongdoings involved in egg extraction and utilization must also be disclosed.

In addition, the indiscriminate support at the government level must be verified and made public in detail. The overall research conditions at home have proved to be very poor in the process of unveiling the “scam of Hwang Woo-suk” as well. Tax from the public’s hard-earned money is wasted, and science is bound to be contaminated by politics if a huge amount of government support is unfairly concentrated in a certain area.

The government’s support for professor Hwang is not completely to be blamed because even the relevant experts were fooled by Hwang’s team. President Roh Moo-hyun, however, must disclose what kind of report was submitted and what “definite support” he had pledged. That is the beginning of the government’s self-examination and the short-cut to revealing Korea’s conscience to the world. The “hero-making” process of Park Ki-young, the adviser to the president for information, science and technology, who had his name on Hwang’s paper without any contribution, must be probed as well. Moreover, the suspicion must be dispelled that the government turned a blind eye to the paper forgery.

Fortunately, the public’s commitment to overcome “Hwang Woo-suk scare” is witnessed everywhere. The scientific community must renew itself by establishing ethics as we did in the past. The citizens increased awareness over the June protest and Seoul Olympics, and conglomerates learned the consequences of bubble management after the financial crisis. The public must move away from the hastiness and the reckless result-driven tendencies. The just minds of Korea’s young scientists and the verification ability of the SNU have been recognized by the world. We may entertain hopes for a good prospect in the future as domestic research on animal nucleus transplantation, cloning technology, and blastocyst formation through human nucleus transplant is world-class.