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Scientific Integrity Is New Hot Topic

Posted January. 23, 2006 03:24,   


A scientist has become the talk of the town after posting a message that scientists should “write their papers with the mindset of being willing to their ankles cut” on a website that brought national attention to the possibility that professor Hwang Woo-suk and his research team at Seoul National University (SNU) fabricated their papers,

The scientist, who used the nickname, “Joke,” posted a message titled, “Papers and Ankles” on January 19 on the bulletin board of the Biological Research Information Center (BRIC), a website frequented by young bioengineers.

He said that while reviewing a student’s paper, he “trembled” when he saw his name and contact information as a correspondent author (an author in charge of editorial supervision of a paper). The story of “Hwa’s jewel” crossed his mind, which he said his advisor told him about 18 years ago while he was preparing for his master’s paper, stating that one should “write his paper in a mindset that he is even resolved to get his ankles cut.”

In the Chu Dynasty during the Warring States period of China, a man known by his surname, He, received a precious jade jewel and gave it to the King as a present. The King considered it as just another ordinary stone, and sentenced him to the severe punishment of cutting his heels. One of his succeeding kings, however, appreciated the true worth of the jewel and belatedly recognized He as a righteous man of virtue.

The scientist said, “My advisor said a paper should only have the truth without any flaws, and that one should stake his own reputation on a paper presented under his name. His saying has long pierced my back like an awl.”

He added, “Nowadays, not only science circles but also ordinary citizens are bringing up a paper’s integrity as a topic of conversation. People often say that tigers leave their skins while scholars leave their papers, but how dare we compare the integrity of papers to mere skins of tigers?”

Young scientists expressed their deep sympathy to the posting, leaving replies such as, “touching,” and, “I will give all my heart to even a single word of my paper.”