[EDITORIALS]Let Professor Hwang workThe first scientist to succeed in cloning human embryos and extracting stem cells from the embryos, professor Hwang Woo-suk announced yesterday that he would not accept a position as Dean of the Veterinary Medicine College at Seoul National University. The decision reflects Dr. Hwang’s urge to concentrate solely on research and educating students.
The extraction of stem cells, chosen as one of last year’s top ten significant events in the science world by Nature and Science magazines, was made possible due to Dr. Hwang’s hard work over the past 30 years. He leaves home at 5 a.m. everyday, returning well after midnight and spends countless holidays in his research lab. But looking back on the activities of Dr. Hwang after he announced his results last year, it is difficult to imagine him spending adequate time experimenting in the lab. Weekly lectures, interviews with media outlets, both domestic and international, participation in some 15 government committee meetings while taking additional time off as a publicity ambassador for Korea were all part of his regular schedule. It left people wondering when the professor actually conducts research.
Of course it is only natural that Dr. Hwang is endeavoring to provide an improved research environment through his breakthrough achievements, because it will become easier for scientists to concentrate only on research in the long-term if sufficient research funds along with legal and systematical grounds are prepared. Dr. Hwang’s efforts in this area have certainly borne fruit. The government has promised to establish a research lab in his name and provide 26.5 billion won ($258 million) in research funds while his alma mater has appointed him as a professor emeritus. The support promised so far gives the impression that Dr. Hwang no longer has to put effort into enhancing the research environment.
The tasks left for the professor are numerous and the road ahead is tough: cultivation of stem cells into organs and research into a cure for mad cow disease. There’s no telling when a researcher from another country might occupy Dr. Hwang’s current position in the field if he continues to wander in areas unrelated to his research. This is why he must return to the research lab. People and the press must let him do just that. If the public attempts to use his fame in unrelated areas or take an excessive interest, he will only be distract.