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Stem cell controversy sets back Japanese science

14 Comments
By ELAINE KURTENBACH

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14 Comments
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Riken seems very keen to condemn this woman, this episode would indicate their system is seriously flawed.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

@gobshite While my first instinct would be condemned sexism in the Japanese science community (well most communities are sexist against women so I don't feel inclined to single out Japan) I think this is less an attack on women and more simply an attack on a head researcher who just happens to be a young woman. RIKEN seems very keen (a little too keen) to have this swept aside as quickly as possible if only to save face. I just hope neither her nor her work become complete discredited for the future.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is not a "devastating" blow to Japanese science at all. It is just embarrassing. The real tragedy is that the Nature journal failed to do their job, and a young scientist is taking the heat. Researchers routinely make mistakes and omissions which appear in first drafts of journal articles. As an academic editor, I see this frequently. It is especially true in collaborative research involving non-English speaking scientists. These errors and omissions are usually detected by a peer-review process using 3 or 4 experts in the field as well as the journal editors, all of whom should carefully evaluate the science. Based on reviewer critiques, articles often go through 3 or more additional revisions to clarify or substantiate findings, in the process strengthening the article. This peer-review process failed miserably here. It would be most enlightening to know who Nature's experts were and to see their critiques; but Nature will surely not make these public.

While Obokata et al may have done some sloppy work, they might still be onto something very important. Time will tell.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

It really is important to adhere to ethical norms in research because norms promote the aims of research such as knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error. Prohibitions against fabricating, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data does promote the truth and avoid error. Since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many different people in different disciplines and institutions, ethical standards promote the values that are essential to collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness. Many ethical norms in research, such as guidelines for authorship, copyright, and patenting policies, data sharing policies, and confidentiality rules in peer review, are designed to protect intellectual property interest while encouraging collaboration. Therefore most researchers want to receive credit for their contribution and do not want to have their ideas stolen or disclosed prematurely. Many of the ethical norms help to ensure that researchers can be held accountable to the public. In the end many of the norms of research promote a variety of other important moral and social values, such as social responsibility, human rights, compliance with the law, and health and safety.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

After reading about all this crap, to me, it looks mostly like a few pictures were used incorrectly, in error or perhaps something else ...............BUT I am not reading much in the way that is canning the research, so RIKEN, can you pls kindly tell everyone what the hell is exactly wrong here........

To me RIKEN & the powers that be are coming off more daft than the researchers who did the paper or is it just me.......bizarre!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

After reading articles and comments from nature magazine, it seems that that there could have been a cover-up. Becauseyou will find that, the real issue aside from the photo's, is really the ability to duplicate ms Obokata's experiments. But as you will find, that may have something do with matierals used and lab conditions, as well as aptitude and competence. It would be very sad if she is tossed over the coals for not suffering incompetence. What would be worse though is if this research is valid, and is lost because of it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This artiicle and indeed the RIKEN investigation into the inccident concentrate on the manipulation of the visual data.

If fact the bigger problem here is that no one (not even RIKEN researchers) has been able to replicate the results of the original research.

Strange to say the least.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"The real tragedy is that the Nature journal failed to do their job, and a young scientist is taking the heat."

You do realize, don't you, that Nature rejected and harshly criticized her manuscript in 2012? They apparently called Obokata's paper "a mockery of 100 years of cell biology."

The operative question is what prompted (or forced) Nature to change its position?

As for all the other people defending Obokata and blaming everyone else, let's just wait until her findings are replicated, shall we.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's interesting to compare this case with the case of our former university president.

In both cases the same figures were used in different papers with different captions. In both cases important results could not be repeated.

In the case of our former president the laughable claim was made that samples and key data had fell off a ship transporting them to China and were now at the bottom of the sea.

Despite a four year campaign by other academics, the former university president managed to keep his job, ride out the storm and has now retired. The case has been reported in the media and on local TV, but to nothing like the extent of the Obokata case. You might think that alleged misconduct by a university president was more newsworthy than that of a young researcher, but apparently not.

Still, I think that the Obokata case by itself will only have a minimal impact on Japanese science. We have seen similar things in other countries where a young "superstar" researcher manages to publish a paper every month until it turns out the data have all been made up. I was reading the other week about a study that showed an increasing number of papers could be attributed to automatic paper generation software such as SciGen, so we can expect more of these scandals in the future.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Simple way is that Riken asks her to replicate her results in presence/supervision of other experts in this filed.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

RIKEN should let Haruko Obokata to reproduce steam cell by her acclaimed method under tight supervising if she wanted to prove she was not fraud. If she can not produce steam cell as her claimed and then she should be recognized as fraudster.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Apparently Obokata is going to hide out in a hospital, a la politicians when busted for something.She should "(Wo)man up" and answer questions if she is not in the wrong, as some random statements accredited to her seem to claim.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This woman is obviously a fake. You can tell by looking at her. Just like Samuragochi. Japanese frauds are easy to pick out cause they dress flamboyantly and try so hard to stand out. The real researchers and composers are too busy working on their projects to care about pink furnishings for the lab and long whispy hair with sunglasses. If someone looks like they came out of a manga story, then they are probably a fraud. No one will be able to reproduce her work.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Focusing on this woman's character is missing the point; both on the way up and the way down.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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