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[A Seoul National University committee concluded Tuesday that stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang had fabricated most of the data that was the foundation for two papers published in Science in 2004 and 2005. In response, Science, which is published by AAAS, released the following statement from Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy. A video of Kennedy’s statement is available here (5.6 MB QuickTime movie).]
Update: Late on Thursday 12 January, the journal posted an official retraction of Woo Suk Hwang’s 2004 and 2005 papers in Science. The retractions can be read here.
NOTE: Science has issued a statement and a chronology of the Korean stem cell controversy.
Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy’s Statement On Latest Hwang Findings
The journal Science has received and reviewed the summary of last night’s report of the Seoul National University investigating committee, which charges the Hwang group that published two stem cell papers in Science in 2004 and 2005 with fraud resulting from serious research misconduct. The authors of the latter paper had earlier agreed to a retraction; since the other paper also is implicated in these misconduct findings, Science will be retracting it editorially as well.
We have been providing, on Science’s Web site, a running chronology of this problem since it was first identified, along with editorial updates in an effort to provide the scientific community with information about the status of the research and our efforts to support investigations of its conduct at Seoul National University and at the University of Pittsburgh.
We are doing a systematic review of the editorial history of both papers and our procedures for evaluating them, to search for ways in which we might improve those. I have pointed out in the past that even unusually rigorous peer review of the kind we undertook in this case may fail to detect cases of well-constructed fraud. To support this effort, we are calling on outside experts, including members of our Board of Reviewing Editors and our Senior Editorial Board.
They and we will be considering options for providing additional procedural safeguards. These could include, for example, requiring all authors to detail their specific contributions to the research submitted, and to sign statements of concurrence with the conclusions of the work. We are implementing improved methods of detecting image alteration, although it appears improbable that they would have detected problems in this particular case.
Fraudulent research is a particularly disturbing event, because it
threatens an enterprise built on trust. Fortunately, such cases are
rare — but they damage all of us. Fraud is unlikely to be eliminated
completely through the process of scientific publishing, and truth
in science ultimately depends upon confirmation. But at Science,
we are determined to do everything in our power to evaluate our own
procedures for detecting research misconduct, and we will communicate
the results of this effort to the scientific community when it is
Donald Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief, Science
10 January 2006