[EDITORIALS]Get on with the researchControversies are continuing to dog Hwang Woo-suk and his team’s studies of embryonic stem cells. Ethical suspicions seemed to ease after Dr. Hwang gave a press conference on the matter, but now his team is engaged in a debate over the authenticity of the cloned stem cells with “PD Notebook” of MBC. In addition, Dr. Hwang’s U.S. collaborator Gerald P. Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh, who has announced withdrawal from the project citing ethical problems, is revealed to have had conflicts with Dr. Hwang behind the scenes over patent rights and the appointment of officials at the World Stem Cell Foundation.
It is a shame that embryonic stem cell research, which could lead to cures for intractable diseases, is facing such snags. Speed is a crucial factor in bioengineering studies. The achievements of Dr. Hwang’s team were the result of continuous research that did not stop even on weekends. The current controversies must subside quickly so that researchers can be free to concentrate fully on their research. The onlooking public is also anxious and annoyed.
It is about time that the parties concerned take it upon themselves to clean up the mess. Dr. Hwang’s team and MBC must stop attacking each other behind the scenes. What must be publicized should be done so in an open, confident manner, and wrongdoings must be admitted honestly. In particular, broadcasters must not make a whale out of something small or criticize facts that have already been proven, under the justification that they have to seek the truth.
Dr. Schatten also played a part in worsening the situation. His claims that he cut ties with Dr. Hwang because of ethical problems only amplified the case. Since his announcement to withdraw and a short personal statement, he has kept his mouth shut. If he truly wishes to part with Dr. Hwang, he should send back those Korean researchers that were dispatched to his lab and return the research achievements.
Should the two reunite, they must first provide frank answers to the various suspicions that continue. The Korean government should be more active in finding the whereabouts of the missing researcher and Dr. Hwang’s team must lodge a request to the government.
A social consensus that acknowledges the need for strict ethical standards in stem cell research has already been formed. Any further emotional conflicts or war of nerves will not benefit anybody. It is time for those invoved to take action on their own.