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SNU engineering professor suspected of fake research

July 13,2010
An engineering professor at Seoul National University, Shin Kyu-soon, allegedly faked his research on polymers, an echo of the 2005 scandal over professor Hwang Woo-suk’s bogus stem cell research.

Seoul National University’s Research Integrity Committee said yesterday that Shin, who specializes in nanoscopic molecular engineering, was unable to provide proof to back a paper published in Nature Materials journal in October 2007. A school spokesperson said they are planning to inform the journal of the false information soon.

Shin’s paper, “Enhanced Mobility of Confined Polymers,” stated that polymers gyrate faster if confined in an area as small as a few nanometers. When first published, the paper drew attention as scientists previously believed that polymer mobility was enhanced in larger areas.

Polymers are a type of large molecules composed of repeating structural units. DNA, proteins and plastics are polymers.

The university started its probe into Shin and his research last June after being tipped off by an anonymous source. Upon receiving the tip, the university made requests to two different research institutions to replicate Shin’s experiment, and the results of each were different from Shin’s.

Dean Seo Jin-ho of the Office of Research Affairs at SNU said the school later informed Shin of his paper’s errors. “We also gave him two chances to redeem himself, but he could not produce the previous experiment results,” said Seo.

Shin has denied the charge and says the original experiment results were deleted from his computer by mistake.

On July 2, the committee decided that Shin’s paper was flawed.

The paper could be retracted and the offending material struck from the journals, according to Seo. If the paper is retracted, it will be the second retraction for a SNU professor after the 2006 retraction of Hwang’s research.

SNU says it will take disciplinary action soon.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]



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