Here’s some news on the Korean situation. (I refuse to call it Hwang-gate.) In Korea, Professor Roh Jung-hye, the spokeswoman for the school's investigative committee on Dr. Hwang, was attacked by a crowd of Hwang supporters. The Joong-Ang Daily reports that Roh’s hair was torn out and she was sworn at. Hwang supporters have been protesting for several days, and the police have been asked to investigate this incident. The same paper also ran an editorial condemning the crowd’s action, calling it “unthinkable.”
Meanwhile, Schatten is under fire again. Multiple news sources have reported that he used the faked research to obtain a $16 million dollar grant. The story was originally reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and picked up as an AP story in numerous papers, including the Washington Post. The AP story reports that Schatten was awarded a 5 year NIH grant in September, and that part of the application was based on the now-discredited paper. The article says that NIH is in contact with Pitt as part of routine oversight. The Tribune-Review article, which is much more extensive, reports that the research will take place on several floors of a building that is now under construction, but the building construction was needed anyway and is not tied to the grant. It quotes bioethicist Arthur Caplan as saying that Schatten should probably not remain head of the research. On the other hand, one of Schatten’s partners said, “Jerry is doing really, truly groundbreaking work that is difficult to get funded because it's so expensive.” The grant was given for research on federally approved hESC lines and for work with monkey embryos.
I can’t pass judgment on this one yet—one, I don’t know how important the paper was in the awarding of the grant, it may have been only one of many factors; and, two, Schatten didn’t know it was faked data when he applied for the grant. The Tribune-Review says the article was cited many times in the grant application, which suggests it was key but does not say in what way—to establish Schatten’s credentials? To provide a baseline of the current science? If he presented himself as a key player in Hwang’s research when in fact he was not, that is an ethical problem that needs to be handled. If he believed the science was good and presented it in that fashion, the issues are somewhat different. Obviously the publicity is bad for the project, but the research covered by the grant is likely perfectly sound scientific research that is deserving of funding. Since it is federal money, it could not be used for human cloning or for research on any of the lines Hwang purportedly created.
$16 million over 5 years? Sounds the pay of an average professional athlete. Where have our priorities gone?