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Panel Confirms S. Korean Cloning Fraud

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the sad-day-for-science dept.

Biotech 111

mmell writes "South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk created a stir when he claimed to have successfully cloned human stem cells, claims which were almost immediately viewed with skepticism in the scientific community. Now an article on the BBC's website chronicles the doctor's final fall from grace as nine scientists empanelled at Seoul University conclude that Doctor Hwang's sensational claims were in fact an elaborate fraud (although they have also confirmed that Doctor Hwang's prior claim to have cloned a dog appears to be valid)." Confirmation of the investigation begun last week.

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Defrauding for Dollars (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437413)


The worst bit of the fraud, as I heard on the BBC this morning, is it lead to considerable investment in Cell Research in S. Korea because Hwang was not at the periphery, but at the forefront of the field. Now S. Korea will be relegated to backwater status in the field of Stem Cell and Cloning Research (which will in all likelihood severly diminish their chances for a spot in the 2008 Olympics Tailored Stem Cell competition.)

However, Don Asmussen of San Francisco Datebook notoriety has again nailed it [sfgate.com] and skewered bystanding bigwigs in Washington DC and Hollywood on his followthrough.

But will he try out for the 2008 Olympic Political/Social Commentary squad, that's the big question

Do Koreans really eat dog? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437673)

That is really vile. I suppose they were cloning so they would have an unending food source?

Re:Defrauding for Dollars (3, Interesting)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438193)

Perhaps this gives us a second chance to evaluate whether embryonic stem-cell research is really worth investing in. Consider:

Non-embryonic stem-cell research is already miles ahead in providing cures [stemcellresearch.org]

Embryonic lines consistently develop mutations [washingtonpost.com] that make them unusable.

Non-embryonic lines are progressing towards embryonic flexibility [sciencedaily.com] .

All of this pales, however, in view of the green [alwayson-network.com] dollar [ca.gov] signs [washingtonpost.com] that float in front of researcher's eyes. Somehow, money seems to make morally outrageous actions seem legit. I have no problem turning off the flow of cash to research that amounts to cannibalism.

Re:Defrauding for Dollars (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439916)

All of this pales, however, in view of the green dollar signs that float in front of researcher's eyes. Somehow, money seems to make morally outrageous actions seem legit. I have no problem turning off the flow of cash to research that amounts to cannibalism.
--
Human being (n.): A genetically human, genetically distinct, functioning organism.

Cannibalism? It's an embryo, it's not an independently functioning organism. Disconnect the umbilical and it dies. Take it out of its environment and it dies. Sorry, no cannibalism here. It's not a person, it's a lump. Also, some people eat placenta, which also is not considered cannibalism, but it's from a human. (Some vegans will eat that, too; since it doesn't harm the animal and it's only waste, it's ok. Depends on the type of vegan, though. This diversion brought to you by the letters T, H, and C, and the number 9.

Re:Defrauding for Dollars (1)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 8 years ago | (#14442373)

Nice try, but if we take you out of your environment, you die too.

"Independence" is a nonsensical test for personhood.

Re:Defrauding for Dollars (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439946)

Shouldn't we also get rid of space exploration because other fields of research are producing more immediately useful advancements and don't cost as much? And if embryonic stem-cell research is cannibalism, then so are the practices of organ donation and blood transfusion.

Somehow, impassioned religious rhetoric seems to make irrational beliefs appear legitimate--until those arguments come under closer scrutiny. Money certainly has a way of distorting people's sense of morality, but such is not the case here. If you want to protest fertility clinics for "murdering babies," then go ahead, but embryonic stem-cell research is only making use of the waste material they produce.

Re:Defrauding for Dollars (1)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 8 years ago | (#14442556)

... if embryonic stem-cell research is cannibalism, then so are the practices of organ donation and blood transfusion.

Organ donation and blood transfusion aren't cannibalism because we don't permit people to kill others in order to harvest their organs or take their blood. By contrast, embryos -- which are functioning human organisms -- are destroyed in order to "harvest" their stem cells. If researchers can find ways to get stem cells without destroying the organism, then I have no problem with the practice.

If you want to protest fertility clinics for "murdering babies," then go ahead, but embryonic stem-cell research is only making use of the waste material they produce.

Clinics' waste material is in fact ... embryos. Functioning, human organisms. Which, by the way, is the basis for your claim to protections under the law.

Somehow, impassioned religious rhetoric seems to make irrational beliefs appear legitimate--until those arguments come under closer scrutiny.

I suppose this statement would be relevant if I had uttered some impassioned religious rhetoric or expressed an irrational belief. But neither is true, so your statement appears to be an odd non-sequitur, under closer scrutiny.

OT: Grammar (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439889)

The worst bit of the fraud, as I heard on the BBC this morning, is it lead to considerable investment

What does lead (Pb) have to do with this?

It "led" to. If you lead, then someone is led. Not lead. Unless you lead them to a matter converter.

I love academia (2, Funny)

MoxCamel (20484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437445)

A panel? As if there were some doubt?

Hwang Woo-suk: I committed fraud.
Panel: *deliberates* No you didn't.

Mox

Re:I love academia (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437474)

A panel? As if there were some doubt?

Hwang Woo-suk: I committed fraud.
Panel: *deliberates* No you didn't.

In other news the field of biosciences is now been determined, not merely to be warped (by political influences), but bent by the Hwang scandal.

Re:I love academia (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437700)

No, it's more like. "That's deeply disappointing. But A) we're not going to take your word for how far you claim the fraud goes -- we're going to evaluate everything you have ever done; *deliberation* B) fortunately, it appears not all your work is fraudulent. This work is bogus, and this is not."

The goal is to excise the fraudulent stuff, and see what, if anything, remains. In this case, the panel's result isn't "No you didn't", it is "Yes you did, right up to this point here."

It's like fixing a house when you have discovered some rot -- you tear out the parts that are rotten, and make sure you have gotten it all, then you start rebuilding.

Re:I love academia (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437758)

I wondering about this too. Didn't he admit it? Why'd they waste all that time and money on a "panel?"

Re:I love academia (2, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437853)

They at least wanted to somehow seem "professional" and to put up the image that "we are serious about this", "we will openly investigate this and punish the responsible", "we are still a very honest country". In other words it is more of a show for the whole world.

Re:I love academia (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14440038)

Uh, no. Like many others have stated, Hwang was a lead researcher in his field. His career did not consist of this single study. The panel was formed to review his past work and to determine what was fraudulant, and what was not. As it turned out, not all of it was made-up. They saved a lot of legitimate research that other researchers have worked with Hwang on, which would have otherwise likely been tossed out. This is also important since many other researchers may have based their work on some of his research. Without this panel, a lot of work by other researchers would have been wasted.

Re:I love academia (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438660)

They had to decide to what degree they want the world to believe he committed fraud. for example di they want the world to believe he also committed fraud on the cloned dog. Do they want the world to believe that his misbehavior extended solely to the misappropriation of the eggs. Don't think these things happen to inform you, but to control information.

Re:I love academia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438005)

South Korean cloning is teh suk.

He he he... (1, Offtopic)

RedNovember (887384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437458)

The last time we had a story it was Woo-Suk Hwang...

Interesting to see how everybody (including the news media) changed the name after all the bad jokes. woo suk hwang? apparently he doesn't anymore.

Re:Him him him... (1, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437513)

The last time we had a story it was Woo-Suk Hwang...

It's more a matter of which is the correct way to state his name. Anglicized is First, Last. In Korea (corea, chosun, etc.) it's the family name first, followed by sur-name Woo-suk Hwang is correct for his home country, but in the west he will be Hwang Woo-suk.

Re:Him him him... (1)

RedNovember (887384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437636)

Then why still refer to him as Dr. Hwang? By Western rules, it should be Dr. Woo-Suk. The article is inconsistent in its naming scheme.

Re:Him him him... (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437647)

Then why still refer to him as Dr. Hwang? By Western rules, it should be Dr. Woo-Suk. The article is inconsistent in its naming scheme.

Whomever said journalists are brilliant?

Re:Him him him... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438022)

Isn't Hwang his last name? wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Re:Him him him... (1)

aricept (810752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438004)

Actually, Hwang would be his surname. This article presents the name in the common Korean sense, as you stated, but Woo-Suk is his given name, not his familial. The hyphen gives that away, usually, at least in Korean names.

Re:Him him him... (1)

Lorenzarius (765215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438025)

Errr now you're confusing matters, isn't family name the same as surname? And actually Hwang is the surname and Woo-suk is the given name (first name). So in Korea (and in China, Japan and Vietname), he is called Hwang Woo-suk. And Woo-suk Hwang is the Anglicized version.

Re:He he he... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437967)

In Soviet Russia Hwang Suk Woo!

Huh, at first I thought... (0, Redundant)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437473)

... it was going to be about story cloning on slashdot. Then I realized there can be no doubt about that.

Re:Huh, at first I thought... (1)

obender (546976) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438798)

I wish I could metamoderate also as Funny not as just Fair/Unfair. The parent comment about cloning stories on Slashdot was modded Redundant.

It would have been obvious (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437482)

where he got his genetic material if his name had been Dr. Whoo Suk-Wang.

I'm shocked! (-1, Flamebait)

gearmonger (672422) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437493)

I mean, sure, anybody can clone a dog, but he lied about revolutionizing stem cell research? Shocked, I say.

Re:I'm shocked! (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437525)

He really did clone a person.

He said "I cloned you, dog!"

And everyone just misunderstood cuz they don't have enough flava.

They told you it was fake! (0, Troll)

XXIstCenturyBoy (617054) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437495)

claims which were almost immediately viewed with skepticism in the scientific community

Of course they did. I love when someone play the "I told you so" card.
All the "We knew no WMD were in Irak, it wasn't the reason for the war", "I knew you shouldn't have bought that brand", "My mother warned me about you" and "I had a feeling" people will now feel validated. Scientist do the same after all!.

MOD PARENT UP (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438169)

He has a point. The excitement over the eventually-invalidated-results was quite large. At the time, I would not say that the scientific community was 'skeptical'. Yes, there were skeptics, there always are. But to focus on the skeptics now is just 20/20 hindsight.

But it's too bad that the parent post mixes up the issue by comparing it to Iraq.

Do something useful (2, Funny)

somethingprolific (944769) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437515)

Quick Dr. Hwang, clone yourself and escape the country! oh wait...

Re:Do something useful (2, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437582)

This is the REAL future of cloning: clone me up a few of me, so they can all go to work/do chores/etc while I sleep in. Then again if they are all as lazy as I am, they would probably band together and make me do all the work/chores, damn them.

Re:Do something useful (3, Interesting)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437651)

A theme done well by Calvin & Hobbes. Instead of his clones doing his work they all get into trouble and don't care about the consequences since he's the one getting punished;-)

Re:Do something useful (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438422)

Actually, to be a bit more pendantic Calvin later modified the Duplicator so that he could make good and evil clones of himself at will. Calvin ended up sending good clones to school while he goofed off, and had good clones cleaning his room, doing his chores, etc.

Eventually the good Calvin got angry at the real Calvin, and disappeared in a puff of logic because a good Calvin cannot have a bad thought.

Re:Do something useful (1)

Wordsmith (183749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437686)

I saw that movie. Hi Steve!

Re:Do something useful (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438810)

Actually, to quote Tim Allen, "I'm the best excuse yet against cloning."

*smirk*

Re:Do something useful (1)

Kesch (943326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437991)

Quick Dr. Hwang, clone yourself and escape the country! oh wait...

He already did that. He has been vacationing for some time. This whole scandal is just a posterboy for why you shouldn't leave clones in charge of the lab. The copies are never as good as the original.

In Reference to Cloning... (-1, Flamebait)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437604)

...I suggest that we clone the world's past great leaders and scientists (FDR, Einstein, Tesla...) and build a new government manned by them when they reach maturity. It's got to be an improvement on the current situation here in the U.S.

Re:In Reference to Cloning... (2, Funny)

Firewalker_Midnights (943814) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437684)

Just as long as Cleopatra doesn't distract Abe Lincoln too much... JFK might get upset.

Re:In Reference to Cloning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437996)

I am desperately seeking a Civilization I-IV joke here, but it just ain't happening.

Re:In Reference to Cloning... (1)

IAAP (937607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437840)

.I suggest that we clone the world's past great leaders and scientists (FDR, Einstein, Tesla...) and build a new government manned by them when they reach maturity. It's got to be an improvement on the current situation here in the U.S.

Do you really think all of those people would be willing to work together? I think a lot of those great leaders couldn't stand being second banana to anyone.

re: in reference to cloning... (1)

ed.han (444783) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438121)

he obviously doesn't know much about the history between einstein and tesla to suggest having 'em work together on anything. einstein and tesla disliked each other, and the former launched a smear campaign against alternating current (tesla's idea; einstein was a DC advocate), vilifying it by lobbying successfully to have it used for electric chairs.

ed

Re: in reference to cloning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438275)

It wasn't Einstein, it was Planck. DUH!

Re:In Reference to Cloning... (1)

7macaw (933316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438219)

Well, since clones start as babies, we can raise them with the necessary team spirit... And the beautiful thing is, we get unlimited attempts ;)

Re:In Reference to Cloning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14439787)

But what happens if they get co-opted by the music industry who wants to put a pretty boy band together called "The World Leaders" with the three of them? Do you think they can resist the call to fame?

Media reaction is very odd (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437613)


on one hand we have a scientist who lied about his results and so the media calls for his hanging and public flogging , yet on the other we have 2 world leaders that lied to take their nations to war, we have a US president that continues to break domestic and international law repeatedly without any recourse and yet the media choose to keep quiet as if its a non-issue

i dont see anyone dying because of this scientists bullshit yet the other world leaders bullshit is activly killing a lot of people and paving the road for even more hate and death down the line, bizzare

This is no great loss... (-1, Flamebait)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437625)

because only old people need to be cloned in Korea.

Re:This is no great loss... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437815)

Does that mean:
In South Korea, young people clone themselves?

Whoa... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437638)

Come on. Liars govern us. Liars want to destroy Video Games and tear us back into their control-freak-reality.

This man from South Korea didn't do any harm (except to sience maybe). So where is the problem?

Can you blame this man and (on the other side) watch CNN with a straight face?

Why? (4, Interesting)

Zathrus (232140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437650)

What I don't get is why he did this, or (if you believe his claims) why he was setup?

Ok, clearly there could be some incentive -- the amount of money, adulation, and so forth pouring into his office after the paper was published was stratospheric. But did he (or the conspirators) actually think the fraud wouldn't be found out? Eventually they would've had to make good on their claim of indvidualized stem cell lines, and they couldn't do that. The gig would've been up in another year at most -- hardly long enough to be worthwhile.

This entire debacle has set back stem cell research -- many labs stopped or slowed down on their own research after the announcement. Some tried to replicate the bogus research, or simply found money drying up because who wants to back the 2nd place finisher? And now that it's been shown to be a fraud, how difficult will it be to get donations now?

The only explanation I can think of is a conspiracy by anti stem cell research groups, and I don't buy that. The only people who could've pulled off the fraud were top scientists in the field, who have been doing similar research for years. And now they're all disgraced along with Hwang.

It just doesn't make sense to me.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

bw_bur (634734) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437830)

Maybe he believed that he could do it, but that things were taking too long. I think that this is when the temptation to fake results arises: when you're "certain" that the experiment can be done, and equally sure that you will be able to do it, but things aren't moving fast enough and you think that someone else might beat you to it.

A serious problem, even a fundamental flaw can seem to be nothing more than an annoying technical hitch -- and the pressure gets to you -- so you fake it.

Re:Why? (1)

VickiM (920888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438041)

Add in that he was a hero to his country, and you probably have the right picture. It's one thing to expect a lot of yourself; when all the people around you are watching and waiting for the next big thing, the pressure must have been enormous.

Not that I approve of faking scientific results. This has set stem cell research back in two ways. First, it'll be hard for the public and for science in general to get so excited about results seen again. Also, he did manage to clone a dog, but because of his fraud, he will never have this kind of funding and backing again. A leader has left the field. Ethically, science is better off, but you do have to wonder if he can be so easily replaced.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438210)

Until someone verifies his dog cloning (which is admittedly relatively trivial in today's terms so probably not under investigation) even that is in doubt.

There is no mention of a mitochondrial DNA test on the dog verification, and a trivial way to "clone" a dog is to take identical twin dog embryos, freeze one and implant the other.
Let the first one come to term and grow up, then unfreeze and implant the twin.

Mitochondrial DNA would be identical in a natural "clone" of course.

Re:Why? (1)

VickiM (920888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438813)

The panel did check the dog. This is an excerpt from the panel's findings as posted on Seoul National University's website http://www.snu.ac.kr/engsnu/ [snu.ac.kr]

3. Verity of the cloned dog, Snuppy

We also carried out DNA fingerprinting analyses on the cloned dog Snuppy whose generation has been published in Nature in 2005 (Lee BC, Kim MK, Jang G, Oh HJ, Yuda F, et al. 2005. Dogs cloned from adult somatic cells. Nature 436: 641). We obtained somatic tissue from the egg donor, blood samples from Snuppy, from Tie, the dog that provided somatic cells, and from the surrogate mother and engaged three independent test centers for the analyses. Results from analyses of 27 markers that allow distinguishing amongst extremely-inbred animals and of mitochondrial DNA sequencing indicate that Snuppy is a somatic cell clone of Tie.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14439467)

Well, that's good to know.
Of course, in this age of wide-spread commercial cloning, not terribly interesting.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438224)

The reason scientists commit fraud is the're just sure the results will be confirmed by later experiments, and they don't want to get beaten to the punch.

Those of you who code: haven't you ever been tempted to release an untested patch because "hey, it's just a spelling correction. What could go wrong?"

Re:Why? (1)

The Limp Devil (513137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14441878)

Well, sometimes they just go crazy and make up things. Then, when they get found out, they write long defenses full of conspiracy theories. I have seen this at my university, and also the same behaviour when confronted with stealing research students' work: Just denials and long written defenses full of conspiracy theories when confronted with what they must have known would be found out. It's not common, but it's not unheard of.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438539)

You hit the real issue: motive.

Any detective will tell you that ascertaining motive is critical. Who benefits from the crime?

In this case it is simple. Personalized stemcell lines would revolutionalize medicine and put a number of drug companies out of business. That is a multi-billion dollar motive.

Reminds me of that incident when two researchers tested cold fusion, perhaps only to have the research crushed and suppressed?

Big businesses would keep us in the stone age if it made them a buck...

Re:Why? (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438687)

I've got an explanation that I think is realistic, but which you may not like (but at least I can't get modded down for). Biologists are far more optimistic than other scientists. They take a small amount of evidence and severely overestimate what it proves, or overestimate the simplicity with which a task will be accomplished. No malice, just perhaps hubris. Perhaps they genuinely believed they could fudge a few corners because "ah, who cares, we're basically right, even if a few results here and there don't totally work out". Evolutionary theory requires scientists to regard biological systems as far less complex than they really are, else how could they come about on their own? Remember the human genome hubbub? Yay, we mapped the human genome! But... that's pretty useless... what we really need is the proteome! Then all our problems will be solved!

They think successes from stem cells will be easy because, you know, they just have to "coax" the cells to do what they want. But they have to gain a much, much, much better understanding of how cells actually work (and I don't mean on an abstracted level, I mean find the prime movers behind all functions) before they can get anything out of stem cells. Now, before you make a bunch of ill-informed flames of me:

-I'm not saying scientists should never study stem cells, just that they have a relatively low rate of return (gain for humanity per dollar invested) under our current knowledge.

-I'm not saying scientists should give up trying to reduce biological systems to simpler laws.

-And, for the love of all that is good, I'm not saying "God did it" is a valid scientific explanation!

I'm just saying, maybe scaling down your appraisal of a cell's complexity is in order before you tell us what results you were "supposed to" get instead of what you "did" get.

Didn't follow fundamental principles of science (1)

jgardn (539054) | more than 8 years ago | (#14440052)

It's simple: He stopped being an objective observer of the natural world around him. He let his preconceived notions, pride, and selfishness get in the way of simple observation. It's what happens to scientists when they stop observing and start believing.

What the Korean people have to learn, as every culture and group interested in science has to learn, is that your failures are really successes. He should've published that his method didn't work. He should've been bold with his discovery of the limitations.

We have the same problem here. We honor scientists who do something amazing, but we relegate those who don't to the back burner. Both have done an equal amount for science as a whole. For every "success" there are hundreds and thousands of "failures". Each of these observations and experiments bring us closer to a greater understanding of the universe. Unfortunately, too often we want to see something amazing or we want our predictions to come true, and that taints our ability to be objective.

Re:Why? (1)

DongeyKong (596046) | more than 8 years ago | (#14442614)

I think the question is why not. He is the only person in the world who had access to more than 1000 eggs for this one project. Women in Korea who donated their eggs were paid cash for their eggs and Dr. Hwang had plenty of money from Korean government to buy more eggs. The government spent more money on this project than any other scientific experiment in their history, so no one could have proved him wrong and he knew it. Also, when MBC(one of S. Korea's major TV stations) first uncovered Hwang's lies, they didn't even give MBC the benefit of doubt. In another words, Koreans loved Dr.Hwang... and some still do in hopes that all this is a conspiracy... so when you have this political, economical, and social support of everyone in that country and treated like God, why wouldn't he say he can make a crippled man walk and dance?

"Man Clones Dog" is not a headline (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437660)

"Dog Clones Man" would be.

Re:"Man Clones Dog" is not a headline (1)

3770 (560838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437805)

In Soviet Russia it would be.

Cold cloning (1)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437744)

It's sad to see human cloning turn into the new Cold Fusion. I'm not for actual human cloning for the purpose of reproducing a human but I am strongly for it for health and medical reasons. It's not an ethical object the problem is purely technical. At best the clone is a retroactive twin and not a duplicate of the person. There's simply far too many risks with the state of current technology. From everything I've read on the subject the risk of health problems and birth defects is huge. One child with birth defects could set the science back twenty years let alone the obvious misery for the child. The technology is in it's infancy and needs time to develope. Some dramatic failures will only fuel the anti cloning crowd. Let animal and tissue cloning become a part of everyday life before the giant step of cloning a human happens. I think if the word cloning wasn't even used in that context it might help. Like I say it's not the person it's a twin and not that much different in a physical sense than any embryo produced in a lab today. I'd rather see the effort put into tissue cloning. Producing a heart or a kidney through the process and having it fail won't do the damage that a failed embryo would.

Re:Cold cloning (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439518)

It is bad enough we attribute these baseless sentimentalities to human life. Let's not extend it to clones as well. If you harvest a defective clone you simply destroy it and recycle the protein to use to nourish a new one.

Depressing News (1)

Vornzog (409419) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437746)

This is truly depressing news. Any science that makes headlines and later turns out to be fraud damages the reputation and credability of science in general.

When the research claims a medical breakthrough, the backlash is even worse. The public ignores most science that doesn't impact their daily lives. Medicine is one of the few areas of science that is almost guarenteed to impact an average joe at some point, and as a result, people pay very close attention.

Human cloning and stem cell research are guarenteed to be headline topics any time a new study is released, and this sets the entire field back several years - both in terms of credability and in terms of research. It forces everyone in the field to step back and reevaluate everything they think they know.

Worse yet, it forces the public to be distrustful of all science.

Re:Depressing News (1)

Xiver (13712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438057)

People are not distrustful of science, just the scientists.

National reputation (4, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437816)

This story brings up an interesting point. I wonder if there is such a thing as collective integrity or morality when dealing with a whole country not just individuals. Typically such words as morality, integrity, honesty are attributed to individuals, but I wonder if they also can be attributed to whole countries.

For whatever reason it seems that in some countries the level of dishonesty and corruption is higher. There might be a good reason for it such as poverty, authoritarian government, and so on. The reason I bring this is up is because as guilty as Hwang is he didn't act alone. Some of his collaborators knew about it, but in general I think the same stuff would be very likely to go on in South Korea, because of some specific socal or cultural factors. Somebody mentioned on the news how scientists in many Asian countries achieve this level of celebrity. As Americans we would not even understand this easily - young teenagers wanting to hang up posters of Bohr in their bedrooms instead of posters of Paris Hilton!? One one side this is admirable as it bring up people who want to learn for the sake of learning, on the other side it puts enourmous pressure on the scientist. It is also difficult when the goverment is very authoritarian and will provide funding but then will keep the gun to your head until you get some results. So the two forces - the temptation for fame and fortune coupled with pressure form the government that wants to show off to other countries will create this situation where individuals will cheat and fake their results.

I don't think that Hwang should not be held responsible -- I believe he will be punished severely for shaming the country -- but I think his case also says something about the whole South Korean culture. Not to be prejudicial but from now on anything that comes out of SK's academia will be taken with a "grain of salt."

High levels of courrption and dishonesty is why I came to this country from the former Soviet Union -- it was possible to live there and even to become very rich but only at the expense of lying, stealing, cheating and bribing. I could and did not want to function in such a society so I came to the U.S. As much as people complain about the government and society here, I think it is still the best one that exists as far as a collective sense of honesty and accountability goes.

Re:National reputation (1)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438011)

Some reaserch reward structures make fraud more attractive. Governments that provide large amounts of money for scientific research without adequate oversight would fall in this category -- the temptation dangles in front of the researcher, and the odds of getting rich outweigh the odds of getting caught.

Governments that punish failure are also in this category; a scientist who finds himself damned either way will feel the pressure to produce.

Re:National reputation (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438351)

Not to be prejudicial but from now on anything that comes out of SK's academia will be taken with a "grain of salt."

We might add that the scientific community as a whole has a long history of this approach. It's called "reproducibility", and standard procedure is to apply it to all results from all labs.

I'd suggest that we do such in this case, and dispense with the legal and political attacks. Either Dr Hwang's results are reproducible and thus credible, or they aren't reproducible and should be dismissed as erroneous. Not just for this lab, but for any.

In some cases, you find that a particular lab's results have always been easily reproducible, so you start accepting them before they've been independently tested. But that should be the special case. The default should be that everything is considered tentative until independently verified.

Science has historically had little but grief from attempts to control fraud by legal or political means. This rarely leads to good scientific results. But verification by reproduction has a long history of success.

This approach has the advantage of not attributing fraud when the problem was poor methodology or writing. If a result can't be reproduced because the published reports were misunderstood, this tends to come out quickly, and the original researchers publish a "clarification" that better explains what they really did.

But the legal and political systems tend to jump quickly to a "fraud" conclusion, from which there is little escape even when it was just a mistake. Then we lose good research and good researchers.

The fact that some of Dr Hwang's earlier results have been verified implies that we should be cautious about jumping to conclusions. Even if there was intentional fraud, we don't know just who did it, or what sort of pressure they were under.

And if this was done because of outside pressure, which is highly likely in this case, the usual scientific approach should quickly get across the idea that you can't get away with forcing your researchers to publish invalid results.

For that matter, we in the US could benefit from getting this message across to some of our grant agencies, especially the corporate ones.

The real problem here is that cloning has become a hot political topic in some countries. This usually leads to bad science. We can't fight it politically; the politicians have all the clout. But we can easily fight it with scientific methods.

Re:National reputation (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439596)

"In some cases, you find that a particular lab's results have always been easily reproducible, so you start accepting them before they've been independently tested. But that should be the special case. The default should be that everything is considered tentative until independently verified."

No, there should not be ANY special cases like you mention. A past history of reproducibility is not a valid indicator of the reproducability of new results. You have no way of knowing if the lab made a mistake or changed staff (after all, the respected names are often individuals who take credit for the results of talented staff).

Every result needs to be independently verified if possible, not merely by default, but in every instance.

Re:National reputation (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14440415)

In principle, I'd strongly agree, and so would most scientists. But in the real world, people often don't have that luxury. We don't always have the resources or the time. No matter what we wish, the fact that X has published a string of 20 papers over 10 years that have all been checked and found perfectly correct will have an effect on even the most skeptical. So X's latest results will be accepted at face value, at least for a while.

That's partly why we really need skeptical, mostly younger researchers out to make a name for themselves by poking holes in some established star's results.

Of course, if the star researcher really did make a mistake, it will be discovered eventually. And in the meantime, people will be basing their work on the mistake. So it's too bad we don't always have the ability to triple-check everything in independent labs.

But even with this admittedly human failing, the scientific demand for reproducibiity has a much better record than any legal investigations, both in discovering incorrect results and in teaching, punishing or rehabilitating the errant researcher.

There's really no need to try for legal punishments for scientific fraud. Having one's results shown irreproducible is enough of a punishment. And, unlike legal sanctions, it has a good chance of persuading the errant researchers to mend their ways and contribute more usefult results in the future.

Re:National reputation (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14442051)

"But even with this admittedly human failing, the scientific demand for reproducibiity has a much better record than any legal investigations, both in discovering incorrect results and in teaching, punishing or rehabilitating the errant researcher."

The thing to bear in mind here is that this point cannot be validated. You see, there is simply no way of knowing how many invalid results have never been discovered precisely BECAUSE they have never been discovered. The same is true of perfect crimes and convicted innocents.

Re:National reputation (1)

Cutterman (789191) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438492)

I don't have much sympathy, but in a way I'm sorry for the guy.

I'm an academic myself, and the pressure to publish as prolifically as possible is enormous. If you don't produce you loose your post, simple as that. Your prof's continued tenure depends on his/her department publishing XXX papers per year and beating YYY university who produced XXX+1 last year. The university's funding and prestige depends on how many papers come out of it per year.

No one really gives a fuck these days whether the paper is useful, interesting, relevant or even true. One road to success is to find a subject so recondite that only a few other people in the world know anything about it - "Determinants of tooth decay in short beaked Echidnas" and write anything you please several times a year (citing mainly yourself of course).

The peer review system has completely broken down and the review that you get is mainly determined by your (or more likely your Professor or Univerity's links to the relevant journals and the reviewers). Prof GGG is unlikely to give your paper a good review if his favourite student's thesis has just been slated by one of your sponsors. And vice versa etcaetera....

A large majority of the papers published in my field are either trivial or irrelevant or reinventing the wheel or reviews of results or eyewateringly banal or inpossibly esoteric or just plain untrue. Scarcely one article in 20 is worth reading and barely one in 50 is interesting or informative.

The "publish or perish" mentality is making a mockery of real science and encouraging moral and intellectual dishonesty among gradualtes and undergraduates alike.

Very sad. The only difference between this guy and tens of thousands of others is that he got caught.

Re:National reputation (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14440759)

My university tells graduate students up front - in the first graduate seminar : "publish or perish" just like you said. I know now why my advisor told me to find some "easy" obscure problem and work on just that - then I won't have to worry about competition and tons of references - I chose a hard and pertinent topic that others are doing and at first I regretted it, but somehow I feel better about myself for being honest and trying to solve "a real" problem that would be somewhat useful.

Speaking of professors, once someone becomes a tenured professor - they sit on their butt and don't do anything significant. A professor I know (not my advisor) told me straight out that they just wanted to be tenured so they could go to the gym every day, relax, travel and just have fun. The young associate professors are forced to do all the work: teach, have grad students and get grant money for the department. I don't have a solution for the problem but something needs to be done about our academia...

honesty and accountability?!? (1, Troll)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438866)

This story brings up an interesting point. I wonder if there is such a thing as collective integrity or morality when dealing with a whole country not just individuals. Typically such words as morality, integrity, honesty are attributed to individuals, but I wonder if they also can be attributed to whole countries.

Oh boy, here we go.

As much as people complain about the government and society here, I think it is still the best one that exists as far as a collective sense of honesty and accountability goes.

Oh come on. Accountability in the U.S. is a joke. Take a good long look at all the high-profile misdeeds that happen in the U.S. that go unpunished. Now, take a look at the fact that it was the Korean media that, after Nature's first story about the staff-donated eggs, aggressively pursued this story all the way and really started to break it open to the world. Also note how it was the professors at SNU who pressed for a hearing.

This is the very core of what accountability is. As a culture, you do what you have to in order to police yourself.

You extrapolating Dr. Hwang's actions and saying this dishonesty is a trait of Korean culture is at best a logical fallacy, at worst offensive. The country isn't perfect, but it deserves better analysis than you've given it.

Re:honesty and accountability?!? (2, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14440084)

You extrapolating Dr. Hwang's actions and saying this dishonesty is a trait of Korean culture is at best a logical fallacy

How is that a logical fallacy? My conjecture was that Hwang was caught because he was at the forefront - he became the scapegoat. Then they created this "mock" board to determine if he faked the results after he _admitted_ that he faked the results. If you would have read carefully what I wrote you would have understood that I was not saying "OMG! Koreans are all bad! LOL!!!! WE RULE!!!". I was just saying that (1) I doubt Hwang is the only one that would be dishonest in his situation. I didn't condone what he did but I can see how someone would do what he did because of what would happend in SK academic community. And (2) There are probably other scientists that do or attempt to do the same but we just don't hear anything about.

Is extrapolating Hwang's actions with some knowlege about the academic culture in SK and in other counries really so "outrageous"? You are right that SK deserves a better analysis but I am not publishing an article in NY Times, I just made a subjective comment on Slashdot. So if I had another month, I would have looked at the known statistics of plagiarism and corruption and compared US and SK, but I just posted a comment with an idea I had.

Isn't extrapolationg behaviors what courts do all the time? If a person lies during investigation, then is it un-reasonable to believe that they have something to hide.

Or say you hear that in Russia you can bribe your way out of jails and traffic tickets and you personally know of 100 such cases but you only know of one such case in U.S. isn't it reasonable to say that Russia is more corrupt than U.S. ?

On the final note, have you ever lived under an oppressive government? I doubt it.. So your oppinion on comparing countries is more subjective than that of someone who has.

Re:honesty and accountability?!? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14441320)

Isn't extrapolationg behaviors what courts do all the time?

Sure, but it seems you've extrapolated from one researcher's behaviour to an entire country. That is a useless argument.

Religion scores!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14437858)

Religion could now use this to discredit science and promote creationism. Isn't Darwinism a fraud too? The problem is there is far more fraud in religion than in science.

Re:Religion scores!! (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439675)

"The problem is there is far more fraud in religion than in science."

Yup. Regligion itself is the biggest fraud in religion. Religion was developed by primative societies as a way of controling the citizens. Today it remains a way for societies to control ignorant citizens.

Re:Religion scores!! (1)

jotok (728554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14440158)

I think negative propositions such as that tend to fall apart upon close examination unless you have a really, really inclusive definition of "religion," such as one that would include the prevailing rational, secular mindset of our time as taught in the public schools...the reason being, when you ask "Well, WHO created this 'religion' thing?" (society) or "How is it spread?" (indoctrination) or "How exactly does it enable people to be controlled?" (by inculcating belief systems) you start to find all kinds of parallels with the dominant social mindset. That is, there is no case where you can say something about religion that you can't say about supposedly non-religious social structures.

With a wide enough definition of "religion," public schools become religious institutions where students are indoctrinated for 12+ years into a certain model of seeing and thinking about the world. If your definition is really narrow, on the other hand, then you're just arbitrarily persecuting religions. The word for that is "bigotry."

Now, if you're just making the argument that our society isn't any more advanced than so-called "primitive" ones, or that the public school system is full of fraud, well, there's plenty of evidence for that :)

Re:Religion scores!! (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#14441987)

"there is no case where you can say something about religion that you can't say about supposedly non-religious social structures."

That is exactly the conclusion this solid line of logic leads to.

"public schools become religious institutions where students are indoctrinated for 12+ years into a certain model of seeing and thinking about the world"

Interesting observation.

I agree with you completely and have no intention of retracting my statements or qualifying them to limit scope.

There is one very important difference between religious structures and present day social structures. Present day social structures only claim they are telling you what to do because you are incompetent in the game of life. Religious structures include the afterlife in that and tend to further mock by acting as if you would believe in sea creatures and all seeing all powerful invisible men who can't be tested or questioned.

This fraud hurt other legit research (3, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437861)

I was listening to the radio this morning and they had a story on NPR about this fraud. They said it not only hurt the reputation of the S. Korean lab, but also when it was reported that they had 'cloned' a human embryo, funding dried up for other similar legitimate research labs (such as Massachusetts' Advanced Cell Technology) as well.

Story is here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story Id=5147015 [npr.org]
Legitimate research lab: http://www.advancedcell.com/ [advancedcell.com]

the good news is (1)

efuseekay (138418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437867)


He did cloned Snuppy the dog.

Before everyone rushed to condemn him (rightfully), he did advance cloning technology. Some of the techniques he pioneered, in particular in nucleus extraction, are now standard procedure.

Which is sad, because one wonders why a technically gifted person such as he would stoop so low.

Re:the good news is (1)

lurker5 (937330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438247)

one wonders why a technically gifted person such as he would stoop so low.

Pressure to succeed? Yesterday The World ran a story on this. He was a national hero there, because of the S Korea's ambitions to be #1 in the biotech in the world.

Re:the good news is (1)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438478)

Pressure to succeed? Yesterday The World ran a story on this. He was a national hero there, because of the S Korea's ambitions to be #1 in the biotech in the world.

Well that backfired, didn't it? Now I doubt he'll be able to get any respect anywhere in the world for his work, regardless of the circumstances. Is a lifetime of professional ruin worth that? Apparently it was for him.

Cloning the Dog was Important (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439157)

Apparently dogs are much much harder to clone than sheep or cats - there are just lots of weird things that go on which make it difficult, so if that part wasn't fraud, then he's accomplished something useful before trashing his reputation and prospects of future work.

Re:the good news is (1)

Amazing Proton Boy (2005) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439738)

I'll believe it when I see the proof from an independent lab outside of S. Korea.

"No" gets failing grade (1)

wayward (770747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14437903)

CNN had an interesting article about academic culture in South Korea, which provides some context for the scandal. http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/01/06/skorea .professors.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

Re:"No" gets failing grade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438030)

CNN had an interesting article about academic culture in South Korea, which provides some context for the scandal.

Ohh... puuuhhleeezzzeee....

It figures (0, Flamebait)

patricksevenlee (679708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438156)

It figures that it'd be the Koreans who would successfully clone a dog. They want to secure their food source for centuries to come.

Cloning makes Puppy grow fast! (1)

lcsjk (143581) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438443)

FROM THE ARTICLE: (Note the italics...)

"The university panel ruled that an experiment last year in which Dr Hwang's team claimed to have cloned a dog was genuine.

A three-year-old Afghan hound called Snuppy - short for Seoul National University puppy - was genetically identical to his father according to DNA tests, the panel found."

Three years aging in just one year? That's just incredible! Such a growth spurt should not have been overlooked by the panel! Did they not even think to count his teeth?

Re:Cloning makes Puppy grow fast! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14441272)

Maybe it was in dog years?

Re:Cloning makes Puppy grow fast! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14441899)

"FROM THE ARTICLE:"?!?

WTF? This is Slashdot. It's not "the article", it's TFA, you insensitive clod!

Lied huh? (1)

TooTechy (191509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438449)

Why does a doctor who has successfully cloned a dog need to falsely claim he can clone a stem cell?

Is it more likely he has been shut-up by someone?

Conspiracy theory or not?

Confirmation of the investigation begun last week. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14438830)

I am now satting here tried-ing to imagined how much Zonk payed attention in class when they done gone went over verbing stuff.

Is even the fakery genuine? (1)

tenzig_112 (213387) | more than 8 years ago | (#14438971)

This has been a very bad week indeed for famed stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-Suk. Not only has the crowning achievement of his scientific career been completely dismantled, but now editors at The Smoking Gun have posted evidence that Hwang's memoir about his misspent youth as a gender-bending, drug-addicted hustler may also be fraudulent.

Million Little Protein Strings topped the New York Times Best Sellers list for a significant chunk of 2005 after talk show host Oprah Winfrey selected the taudry tell-all for book club last September.

"I really identified with Hwang as a person who had experienced terrible things, made horrible choices, and somehow found a way to rise above," said Winfrey. "It was just the sort of tripe my audience loves to wallow in. Now that I discover that the story is just as genuine as a marriage proposal from Stedman Graham. As you might imagine, I'm a little pissed."

As if that weren't shocking enough, now comes news that even the fakery itself may not be genuine. Experts say the signatures on his lab notebook during the period of alleged data fudging are drastically dissimilar to ones plastered on earlier pages, and in recent interviews with the stem cell pioneer he appears to be a completely different person according to those who know him well.

Sources deep inside the isolated North Korean government are hinting that the whole embarassing episode may be an attempt to discredit the work going on at Seoul National University. For their part South Korean officials scoff at the accusation, claiming that their economically depressed neighbors to the North lack the resources to pull off such a stunt. Also, Kim Jung Il's government is so notoriously secretive that a leak of this magnitude just doesn't make sense unless it was an intentional rouse.

Hwang's supporters stand by their claim that the faked fakery is the real fake and not the original fakery committed when- oh, crap. Now I'm all confused.

Triumph or tragedy for science? (1)

xPsi (851544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14439898)

I've read some articles (e.g. NYTimes_1 [nytimes.com] ) that imply this is event (and events like it e.g. Pons and Fleischman etc.) are philosophical tragedies for science, watering down the credibility of worldwide science in general. Psychologically and emotionally, this may indeed be the result (temporarily). But shouldn't this be viewed the other way around? That the Scientific System is, in fact, very robust, working exactly as it should, able to detect and clearly identify frauds of this sort?

In the article I linked to above, a scientist says: "'We depend entirely on the truthfulness of the scientific community,' Dr. Zoloth said. 'We must believe that what they are showing us and what they say has been demonstrated is worthy of our concern and attention. The South Korean story, Dr. Zoloth added, raises questions about whether the science is good. 'Good as in true and real and morally worthy of our funding," she explained.'"

But isn't that totally incorrect and naive view for a funding agency? Nowhere in Science does anyone "depend on the truthfulness of the scientific community." Science depends on testability, falsifiability (if you're a Popper-ite), repeatability, peer review, etc. These sorts of events remind you that the system is working.

My argument could be twisted around: I'm *not* paradoxically saying we should encourage scientific fraud to somehow lend scientific credibility. But given that we have an intrinsically error-prone system, error detection and correction (a strength of the modern scientific process) should be a regarded as a *good* thing.

Sadly, money was wasted on this fraudulent work. But there is no recipe *a priori* to know 100% of the time if research hypotheses are fraudulent without examining the results in a peer-reviewed and reproducible way.

Why Slashdot? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14442290)

Why are science news being posted on Slashdot? What do you (we) guys know about science? Give a news item about GPL, Linux or some insane open-source news or anti-Microsoft news item and you guys will be all over it, at least showing off that you know some bits and pieces. But SCIENCE? Are you guys even qualified to talk about these things? Simply because you are all self-proclaimed nerds? I mean you basically sit in front of your computer and play games or do some *nix stuff, does that make you aware of science? Somebody clear me up - with one good reason why science news should be posted here...
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