[EDITORIALS]The perils of layman scienceScience has always been dotted with mistakes. The possibility of error is even greater in case of a new theory within the field of high technology. However, the history of science has also been that of overcoming such tendencies and patiently discovering new truths. A scientist speaks with the results of his or her research, but it is also up to the scientific community to prove that the results were valid. If the same results can be replicated, they are taken as being “true.” If they are proven otherwise, then the scientist who had originally claimed the results loses credibility.
That is why we believe that the fact that MBC’s “PD Notebook,” an investigative program with no expertise in science, tried to evaluate Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s stem cell research was in itself inappropriate. Dr. Hwang’s team of geneticists produced results that were acknowledged by both research institutions and science publishers of authority to be an unprecedented breakthrough in the study of genetics. So far, no research institute has posed any objection to Dr. Hwang’s research results. This controversy began because PD Notebook tried to evaluate the research results with only its layman’s understanding. Members of Dr. Hwang’s team who are currently conducting research in the United States are claiming that the PD Notebook reporters used coercion and threats when interviewing them. If their claims are true, then PD Notebook is also guilty of ethical lapses ― the ethics of journalism.
If there was a problem with Dr. Hwang’s research paper, then it would likely have been a fellow geneticist who first pointed it out. As for now, the controversy is being amplified by leaks of information, media exposure or press conferences, all totally irrelevant to science. Yet Dr. Hwang’s results were used to establish a different study on monkey stem cells, and many other research teams around the world are using Dr. Hwang’s methods to conduct their studies on stem cells. Non-scientists shouldn’t worry about evaluating Dr. Hwang’s research results: scientists around the world will do it.
This controversy does nothing to help the progress of science or for the national interest. If we want this controversy to go away, all we need to do is wait and leave it to the scientists to do the proving. Dr. Hwang should also be allowed to get back to his real job: research.
The government should also try to find a solution, such as encouraging authoritative scientific research institutions to express their opinions on Dr. Hwang’s research. It would also help for Dr. Hwang to come forward and talk openly about his research.