Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Define ironic…

Ahead of a meeting with a representative from the recently-formed UK Research Integrity Office, I sorted through my file of papers on research misconduct. Amongst them I found a ‘News in Brief’ page from Nature Medicine, 2005 . On it, I found the headline that had caused me to photocopy the page – “Many scientists admit to misconduct”, drawing attention to a paper in its sister publication Nature published a month earlier. The paper described a survey in which it was revealed that one in three scientists has committed some type of scientific misconduct.

The irony was that at the bottom of the same page was a short piece (from the same correspondent, Emily Singer) announcing “South Korean chalks up another stem cell victory”. The article highlighted the work of Woo-Suk Hwang in which he claimed to have cloned human embryonic stem cells in a paper published two months earlier in Science. The disgraced Professor, formerly of Seoul National University, is now used as a case-study for fraud in research (for example, Fraud Advisory Panel Occasional paper 01/07 Fraud in Research: Is it new or just not true?).

Was this incredible prescience on the part of the author, or just a strange coincidence of publishing?

Posted on behalf of Dr. Dave Wilson, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Wales, UK



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    JCL said:

    This is a marvellous coincidence (except for Hwang, I guess). I wish we had noticed it before. In fact, I wish we could say that we were absolutely prescient about what would happen late that same year.

    Come to think of it, who knows? Maybe Apoorva Mandavilli, our News Editor at the time, knows something I don’t know.

    In any case, I’m delighted that Dr. Wilson brought this matter to our attention. Thank you very much!