Not much going on, just the various papers catching up on the Hwang mess. The only new news I've seen on that is that Hwang did report to the Korean government in January that the stem cell cultures had been infected. The Korea Times reports that Park Ky-young, the presidential advisor for information, science and technology affairs, is now in hot water herself because she did not report it directly to the president, Roh Moo-hyun.
Otherwise, it's a lot of editorializing and reflecting. I'll just give you a few snippets of what people are saying. Here's a bit written by two scientists for the San Jose Mercury News (you might have to register to read the whole thing):
Science depends upon trust in the honesty and integrity of its practitioners, perhaps more than any other human endeavor. The peer-review process means that experts review the data and the methods that are reported but, ultimately, scientific articles are a form of testimony. Other scientists then attempt to repeat research results -- so that if something is fabricated it will typically be discovered over time. But oversight committees like human experimentation committees have to trust what their investigators tell them. Journals also must rely on scientists to tell the truth to them. And researchers themselves often have to rely on the honesty of their graduate students and post-doctoral students. When trust breaks down, the very possibility of science is threatened. That is why so much time is spent these days emphasizing to young scientists the importance of integrity.
The mess in South Korea reveals the ethical problems inherent in high-pressure, high-stakes and highly competitive science. Ever since James Watson described in his book ``The Double Helix'' the shenanigans that he and his collaborator Francis Crick engaged in to be the first to discover the structure of DNA it has been very clear that ambition, competitiveness and the desire to be the first can lead the best biomedical researchers to engage in dubious, immoral and even fraudulent behavior.
And here's part of a statement from the Associate Director of the American Council for Science and Health: "The news of alleged misconduct by Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, the South Korean scientist hailed as a stem cell pioneer, is disturbing and bizarre. But it is essential that the behavior of one brilliant but seemingly troubled researcher not be used to besmirch the still promising field of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research."
The Albany Times Union has a piece by two bioethicists (including one of the same writers, Arthur Caplan, as the San Jose Mercury News bit above) about the speediness of science; it also addresses the recent French face transplant.
An extensive piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune says,
Meanwhile, San Diego biologists say the scandal shows why the United States needs to lift federal funding restrictions on the use of human embryonic stem cells for research, which requires the destruction of embryos.
"We would have figured out very quickly that there was some problem here. . . . And the truth would have come out much sooner had we been in a position like we normally are – to be able to jump in and work with complete freedom," said John C. Reed, president of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla. "It's very important that we have laboratories throughout the country and around the world to . . . verify whether observations made by one group are reproducible by another."
Another bit of the same article:
Dr. Evan Snyder, head of stem cell research at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, said the embarrassing South Korea episode shows how science's built-in system of checks and balances can root out misconduct.
"This was an example of the scientific community doing what it does routinely, which is police itself," Snyder said.
I guess the good news is that is a scandal, and that none of this has been accepted by the larger communities.