[FOUNTAIN]A mistake or willful fraud?The British science journal “Nature” and the American “Science” have led world science for the past 100 years. Darwin’s theory of evolution and the DNA double helix discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick were introduced through “Nature.” Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen’s discovery of X-rays, Thomas Hunt Morgan’s research on drosophila genetic mutation and Einstein’s work on gravity were all published in “Science.” Among scientific journals, “Physical Review” in physics, “Cell” in biology and “JACS” in chemistry are the leading journals in each field. However, none of these are a match for “Nature” or “Science” in either tradition or influence.
Both journals are well-acknowledged for their authority. There is a saying that, “Once published in either journal, 10 years of research is guaranteed.” It is every scientist’s dream to have their thesis introduced on the cover page. Their editors’ desks are the first places the latest research arrives. To maintain their authority, an objective verification procedure is very strict.
However, it is impossible for anything to be perfect. The discovery of the Piltown fossil in England in 1912 is known as a representative fraud case in the science field. The fossil was believed to be evidence that the oldest known ancestor of modern people was British and was stored carefully at the British Museum. However, through fluorine absorption tests it was revealed to be false. It consisted of a human skull and an orangutan’s jaw. Iron solution and chromic acid had been applied to make it appear an old fossil.
Kazunari Taira from the University of Tokyo recently scarred “Nature’s” authority by publishing a number of theses. He announced he had discovered a way to prevent cancer spreading and was discussed as the number one candidate for a Nobel Prize. Experiments conducted by other researchers did not show the same results and, when questioned, he replied, “I did not keep my experiment results.” The university requested Mr. Taira repeat his experiments.
Recently, “Nature” and “Science” have raised questions over Professor Hwang Woo-suk’s embryonic stem cell research. It is suspected the professor may have obtained human ova in an inappropriate way. Since this is research directly related to life, the ethics standards are strict. However, this should not detract from Dr. Hwang’s success in succeeding in cloning embryonic stem cells for the first time. He should clearly explain what happened. He could become another Piltown case or another Taira if he counters poorly. We should clearly distinguish the difference between a simple mistake and intentional fraud.
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.