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NHK apologizes to Obokata after she is injured while fleeing reporters

58 Comments

Public broadcaster NHK on Thursday apologized to Haruko Obokata, a stem-cell biologist and research unit leader at the RIKEN institute, after she was injured while fleeing from reporters on her way home on Wednesday night.

Obokata's lawyer Hideo Miki told a news conference that Obokata was in a taxi heading home from Kobe at around 8 p.m., when a reporter riding a motorbike followed her, TBS reported. She got out of the taxi at a Kobe hotel where she was pursued on an escalator by five NHK reporters, including a cameraman, Miki was quoted as saying. Obokata was also followed into the toilet.

Miki said Obokata sustained injuries including a sprained right elbow and neck pain requiring nearly two weeks of recovery time.

NHK contacted Miki and offered a formal apology for their reporters' behavior, saying they went too far and acted inappropriately, TBS reported.

Obokata has been under intense media scrutiny as she tries to confirm whether STAP cells really exist since it was discovered that a great portion of her research and data was found to have been riddled with inconsistencies. Obokata eventually agreed to pull her reports and submit them at a later time only if she is able to reproduce her findings.

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58 Comments
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Enough. Leave her alone.

34 ( +38 / -4 )

Enough is enough. This has gone way beyond the reason of science. It is now just plain harrassment. When Hitler said that he had gathered 100 scientists to disprove Einstein, Einstein replied, "Why 100? If I am wrong ONE would be enough."

"...a reporter riding a motorbike followed her, TBS reported. She got out of the taxi at a Kobe hotel where she was pursued on an escalator by five NHK reporters, including a cameraman, Miki was quoted as saying. Obokata was also followed into the toilet.

Miki said Okobata sustained injuries including a sprained right elbow and neck pain requiring nearly two weeks of recovery time. "<

21 ( +22 / -1 )

What a soap opera....................................

she was injured while fleeing from reporters on her way home on Wednesday night.

Why is she fleeing reporters ????.................................. She couldn't bask enough in the glare of paparazzi lights when presenting her falsified research . . .

-25 ( +8 / -33 )

Misogyny in Science!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Obokata was also followed into the toilet.

I realize that I'm nitpicking here, but this is the second article where JT has translated toire (トイレ) as "toilet," which usually refers to the device itself (a google image search of "toilet" confirms this). This word would be more appropriately translated as "restroom."

-9 ( +10 / -19 )

this is the second article where JT has translated toire (トイレ) as "toilet," which usually refers to the device itself (a google image search of "toilet" confirms this). This word would be more appropriately translated as "restroom."

All true for a North American.

Not for those of us in the UK though....

14 ( +17 / -4 )

Obokata was also followed into the toilet.

Unless the article is comparing the quality of Obokata's research and that of NHK's reporting.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Not necessarily. Toilet can also refer to the room itself.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Moderator, @lucabrasi

I stand corrected! Thank you.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Was it Domo kun?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree with jpntdytmrow completely. This has gone well beyond the point of absurd to simple criminal harassment. There isn't a rational thinking person in Japan who doesn't realize perfectly well that Ms. Obokata was served up as a sacrificial lamb by her superiors at the RIKEN Institute.

The research lapses were not entirely of her creation, and everyone in Japanese academia knows it. Far be it, however, for anyone in academia to speak on her behalf. It would upset the apple cart too much for different research pies they all have a pinky finger in, poised to take full credit if the research pans out, or retreat in annonymity if the research falls flat. It's utterly offensive.

If NHK wants a real story, they should be focusing on the self-serving cowards who are still huddled behind their desks in the offices of RIKEN while Ms. Obokata is being left to the wolves.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

She should be glad she doesn't have to deal with the paparazi!

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

トイレ Refers to the restroom/bathroom in Japanese, but we rarely if never use the word 'toilet' to refer to the room in English. I remember thinking it sounded pretty crass when I moved to Japan.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

what's the point of hounding her now? she's yesterday's news once she agreed to retract her paper.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

She should be glad she doesn't have to deal with the paparazi!

She did. Didn't you read the article?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

They followed her into the toilet? Wow.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'd say they chased her into the Ladies', into the toilet, into the loo, into the powder room, into the public conveniences. I don't think I would ever say restroom unless it came equipped with easy chairs, slippers, a TV and coffee on tap.

And if it ain't got a tub, towels and body shampoo to hand, it definitely ain't a bathroom. if you want a short life with a nasty, painful end, come to my house and dare to treat my bathroom like a toilet.

Gotta say I feel a bit sorry for this lady. Treated like a little princess in her cute little frilly aprons, put forward as Japan's pretty answer to Mme Curie, and when it turns out she/her team got it wrong (apparently), thrown to the lions. I'd expect the chasing up the escalator and into the loo antics from some of the private broadcasters, but NHK should have a bit more class. Those five reporters will have been dragged onto the carpet by now; bonuses cut and a sudden transfer to deepest darkest inaka, no doubt.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Readers, please forget about what it is called. Please post comments pertinent to the story.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I hope this lady, this woman, this human being is finally left alone. This incessant hounding is childish, boorish and essentially harassment.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@Sensato

The guardian reproduces a lot of stuff straight from the wires.

They also employ a lot of American journalists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The story's not over by a long shot, and this sort of predatory media coverage is a clear sign that the media are waiting for another shoe to drop. It's extremely odd that a junior researcher would have been permitted to submit a paper on such an important discovery. People are wondering who's been pulling Obokata's strings and for what purpose. One investigative reporter is convinced that a biotech company's shares soared in value around the time her paper first came out, and says the whole thing was really about earning huge profits from insider trading. (His articles appeared in two parts, in the July and August issues of Shincho 45 magazine.) She might have been no more than an unwilling dupe in a plot to manipulate share prices.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

>Obokata was also followed into the toilet.

This is so wrong and so beyond just an apology. They should be sued!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Not saying she's overexagerating, NHK is the devil, but how did she injure herself to the point that it needs 2 weeks to recover? Did she fall? Run into a wall?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Agree with you Cleo about the aprons, the frills and also enough is enough.

The morning TV news was all about yet another high school suicide and bullying and yet the adults of this country can't seem to figure out why students here bully... I am no fan of this woman and agree she was more than happy to play the damsal in the lab without having the skills and knowledge but enough of this crap. It is disgusting and just demonstrates that folks here really do not get how and why haressment and bullying here gets the green light by those in positions of power.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

And it's cute NHK thinks they represent Japan as the official broadcast yet so wrong. If they were in America, they would have been forced to close down for their constant questionable conduct.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The hubbub might die down after her falsified doctoral thesis gets her degree rescinded.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I still for the life of me do not understand why her PhD hasn't been taken away from her. 20 pages of "copy paste" and yet... a PhD.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My NHK subscription fee is probably going to end up as this scientist's medical cost, yay ;_;

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yikes, what a mess. Can she not bring the NHK up on harassment?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

where she was pursued on an escalator by five NHK reporters, including a cameraman,

Five "reporters" to pursue one woman -- insane.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Don't worry everyone; she can make some more magical stap cells to cure the injury and prove everyone wrong in the process.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

how did she injure herself to the point that it needs 2 weeks to recover

It really doesn't take much to damage a joint. I've suffered sports injuries that took weeks to heal, and I was doing something I had trained to do. So it's not hard to hard to imagine any number of possible serious injuries occurring when you're fleeing someone in a panic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The BBC called Jp media as like a pack of wolves around Obokata. She has been singled out for misconduct in scientific research, but such misconduct is indemic in Japanese science.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Following all the way into the "restroom"(excuse me for being so American) is grounds for a lawsuit. This is NHK doing this? The company that throws a fit for someone showing a little skin on TV or if you have a reasonable excuse for not paying their bills.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

NHK contacted Miki and offered a formal apology for their reporters’ behavior, saying they went too far and acted inappropriately, TBS reported.

a reporter riding a motorbike followed her, TBS reported. She got out of the taxi at a Kobe hotel where she was pursued on an escalator by five NHK reporters, including a cameraman, Miki was quoted as saying. Obokata was also followed into the toilet.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

It is wise that she obtained a lawyer's service. Hope a big lawsuit follows so that NHK reporters restrain themselves to pursue interviewed people uncecessary. NHK might have difficulty to continue its interview programs in future.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gees! So the paparazzi have caught up,with her and injured her in the process? I hope she is ok. I also hope she sues the report starved fools for millions of yen! These injuries will stop her taking up her new post at Royal Host!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Following her even to the toilet. That's harassment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Im also a little surprised that it is possible to injure oneself so badly running into the TOILETS (Brit here. Well at least I didnt say "bogs"!). A sprained right elbow and neck pain that takes two weeks to recover from?? That must have been one hell of a smack.

Yes, ironically this is when her STAP cells could have come in very useful.

I too would loveto see some REAL investigative reporting, rooting out the grade A-holes behind this womans downfall. She may not have been a modern day Curie herself, but as someone rightly pointed out, who puts a junior researcher at the forefront of such an important discovery? There is definitely a hidden agenda here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Reporters seem to be heading for the same reputation as lawyers and politicians....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Leave her alone?

She manipulated her data! Do you appreciate how important it is for scientists to do their best to only publish conclusions based on empirically verifiable data? She was not simply negligent. She intentionally falsified her data.

Scientists are only human, but they must be held the highest standard. Science is under attack, in case you didn't know. In the US, idiots are actually against vaccinations. Simply put, I hope she rots in hell.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

She says she can repeat her results if they give her access to lab, computer, and notes. They ought to go ahead and let her try.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Miki said Obokata sustained injuries including a sprained right elbow and neck pain requiring nearly two weeks of recovery time.

If her lawyer hadn't actually been involved too no apology would have been offered to Obokata. NHK would have reported it as Obokata's actions led to her own injuries and that NHK staff had acted in a professional manner. Interesting that the article lists the injuries to her and her lawyer but does not inform the reader as to what the reporters actually did that led to the injuries. Maybe NHK was not willing to reveal such information?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"There isn't a rational thinking person in Japan who doesn't realize perfectly well that Ms. Obokata was served up as a sacrificial lamb by her superiors at the RIKEN Institute."

The "rational people" are waiting for her to replicate her results, as she promised. Waiting, waiting, still waiting. Hmmm.

The ones who view her as a "sacrificial lamb" have been watching too many Hollywood movies.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@turbotsat "She says she can repeat her results if they give her access to lab, computer, and notes. They ought to go ahead and let her try."

Ripken has set up a lab with cameras etc to observe her every move in which she will attempt to do that. She has been commuting for a few weeks or so, not sure if she's still involved in preparation or already started the experiments but she was on her way home from work there when this incident happened. It looks like the injuries are going to cause some delay in the work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

OK, thanks. It wouldn't be impossible for her to set up her own lab, but I think setting up a big enough lab would be difficult, expensive, and take a long while.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07/01/national/science-health/obokata-to-join-cell-verification-experiment-at-riken

0 ( +0 / -0 )

turbotsat at Jul. 26, 2014 - 08:18AM JST "OK, thanks. It wouldn't be impossible for her to set up her own lab, but I think setting up a big enough lab would be difficult, expensive, and take a long while."

She is also still an employee of Riken.

Tomorrow night (Sunday 27th) NHK is airing a special on the STAP issue from 9:00. It seems the NHK staff were chasing her to get comments for that program after she had declined to answer a set of questions they sent her earlier.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jefflee

Bingo. What is wrong with these people?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Let's hope we're not letting it become another 'Lady di' and "reporters"-en-masse hysteria.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

copy pasting irrelevant background information doesnt mean her work is not valid. just that shes lazy. she was however, an idiot accepting the part of cutsey genius and for that alone she doesnt deserve to be a scientist. lets have the "brilliant" nobel winner rikens leader check all the research before it leaves lab, hes so smart im just in awe

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Obokata was in a taxi heading home from Kobe at around 8 p.m., when a reporter riding a motorbike followed her, TBS reported. She got out of the taxi at a Kobe hotel where she was pursued on an escalator by five NHK reporters, including a cameraman,

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Any female will try to escape as she would not know who these people are. Mob attack? Kidnapper for human traffic business? You never know.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@JTDanMan

"What is wrong with these people?"

They're swayed by the images. They watch TV and see the images of the glum wrinkled old men at Riken, versus a young and vivacious woman. They instantly make the bad-guy, good-guy association, as they would when watching a Sandra Bullock movie.

The worst part is they hold on to that attitude in the face of one scientific fact after another. Scary, when you think about it.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Why is she fleeing reporters ????.

@Semperfi You know they are reporters because this report told you so. But if you are woman and a group of strange men are suddenly running at you, for the hundredth time, you don't know who they are or what their intentions are. The woman is beautiful and has been all over the TV. She has a nation full of fans and anti-fans. I am surprised she has not gotten the "slash you with a hand-saw at a hand-shaking event yet." So yeah, she ran. I doubt she carries weapons, has combat training, or even has a special penchant for military slogans.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's OK to flee reporters, too, especially aggressive paparazzi.

And maybe Riken provided the wrong mice to its OWN researchers, as well as "41 research institutes". (BTW, quite nice of Riken to provide new mice free of charge, but if they were really honest they'd pony up the cost of research wasted on the wrong mice, however expensive that turned out to be.)

I kind of doubt Obokota will be successful, though, given the other researchers weren't able to reproduce her results. And her mentor at Harvard has also approved retraction. Interesting that his February interview was quite positive. Wonder if it was all based on her research in Japan?

June 17, 2014: "Cells purportedly made with 'STAP' method came from the wrong mice, tests show." (according to Obokata's team lead, Teruhiko Wakayama) http://www.nature.com/news/gene-tests-suggest-acid-bath-stem-cells-never-existed-1.15425

June 22, 2014: "Riken provided 178 genetically modified mice that did not have specified gene patterns to 41 research institutes." http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201406220026

February interview with Charles Vacanti: http://www.ipscell.com/2014/02/interview-with-charles-vacanti-on-stap-cells-link-to-spore-stem-cells-more/

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am one of Japanese who get angry and furious of this news.We have a supportive group in Japan,and all of us really want to act for her. But she has strong will for proving STAP cells theory,and really focusing on just her experiment. This is reason why we are acting with politeness “so far”,such as protesting by sending e-mails to medias, etc.

On the behalf of the group, there are the things we really would like to ask for all of the reader of this article.

1 Please try not to comment based on biased information* Most of the information from Japan about her is wrong or unconfirmed.I have never experienced such a situation that there are huge gap between information from news and what she insist(We can see her insist on the group's Facebook.Sometimes,her lawyer,Hideo Miki,posts her comment.)

2 Until the re-experiment completed, please be patient to judge if the STAP theory is true or not There are possibilities it is valid or fault or partially valid(fault). But it is never too late to judge after completing it.

3 PLEASE DON'T HURT HER ANY MORE. I know most of you are irritated of this fuss,because some comment from overseas is getting harsh for her too. But we dare to ask all of you “PLEASE DO NOT HURT HER ANYMORE. BECAUSE SHE HAS BEEN PUNISHED ENOUGH."

In this 6 months,she has been scapegoated very harshly from scientific society, Japanese medias,and people who has malicious intent.I have never seen it nether in whole my life in Japan. Of course,she made mistakes, but they are trying to deprive of dignity from her by exaggerating things or revealing her privacy.

BUT I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT ANYBODY CAN NOT TAKE IT FROM AN INDIVIDUAL!

I hope you understand our thought.

Best regard.

*The example of wrong or unconfirmed information(so called bullshit) from Japanese medias. She mixed ES cells to forge the result study. She did not experiment actually. She brought other type of mice from somewhere with putting them into her pocket.

*These are the rumors from the result of "mice genetic test" by another co-author,and RIKEN. But 4or5days ago,they admitted there are flaws in "mice genetic test” itself. It is not necessary the proof that she forged this study or STAP cells is not exist.

The article was retracted already...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@sake lover: Majority of comment writers here write about her chased into hotel and injured. Nothing to do with whatever science some people writing but we are more concerned for her trying to escape from a group of men running after her. As a woman, I would be scared. We might be able to attack back one person but not so many people. That is the majority of people's opinions. Many writers, including me, are furious of NHK reporters' actions and many wrote her to get healed. Never mind of amateur instant scientists trying to pretend they know science. These amateur experts are in every article comments for any subjects. Just make sure she get healed and never forget to sue NHK. Say hello to her from majority of us. sake hater.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Woo,thank you for your reply,Sake hater! I am really happy that there is a person who wait her healed. Time will tell the truth defiantly, but now I really hope that she can prove the existence of STAP in near future. Even if she can not,I do not blame on her,because she already got harsh punishment. This feeling is from brotherhood.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@SakeLover: Let's talk issues related to above article to support her. No misogyny such as brotherhood please because many of comment writers are females. STAP has nothing to do on above article. Don't instigate STAP talks here please, Back to topic, NHK apologized. Miki is doing his best. Sake Hater.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@toshiko: Dear Sake hater. "brotherhood"-Sorry for wrong word choice,because I don't get used to writing comment in english. Ok,I agree with your comment.The priority is to support her. Now, I think the things we can do are criticizing NHK and leaving her alone.

Do you have other ideas?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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