[EDITORIALS]Healing after Hwang

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[EDITORIALS]Healing after Hwang

Seoul National University’s review panel announced yesterday the final results of its investigation into Hwang Woo-suk’s work, and concluded that his stem cell research paper from 2004 was fabricated, as was the case with the 2005 publication. The review committee acknowledged Dr. Hwang’s success in creating blastocysts, an embryo at the stage of being implanted in the wall of the womb, by transferring somatic cell nuclei, but it could not find any evidence that the process helped in the creation of stem cell lines. Meanwhile, “Snuppy,” which Dr. Hwang’s team claimed in August was the world’s first cloned dog, was found to be legitimate.
With the announcement, the scientific review of the stem cell controversy has been completed. At this juncture, it is clear that there are no patient-specific stem cells, which were the key to Dr. Hwang’s papers. We feel that the university’s final findings should be accepted as the definitive conclusion of scientific investigation into the case. Any more excuses and passing the buck is unacceptable. Our society should no longer suffer from the polarized and personal debates between pro-Hwang and anti-Hwang quarters. We expect Dr. Hwang’s team of researchers to offer a sincere apology and to take full responsibility for their actions.
It is only fair that prosecutors now begin a quick and thorough investigation. Given the side effects of this controversy, including losing credibility as a nation on the international stage, it will not be sufficient to merely expel the researchers in question from academic circles. Strict legal action and accountability are necesary. Then we can prevent any more lying and fabrication in Korean science. The prosecution should not only examine the technical aspects of the case, such as the switching of stem cell lines or the actual existence of technology, but also focus on whether the research grants have been used appropriately, and whether Dr. Hwang’s team was ethical in obtaining human eggs. The prosecution must present investigation findings acceptable to the people.
The collapse of Dr. Hwang’s legacy has left a scar that will not easily heal. At least, we have rediscovered the ability of our young, conscientious scientists to objectively critique one of their own.
It is not too late for us to wake up from our delusion. Any scientific achievement built on falsifications must be scrapped immediately to prevent further damage. We have to start rebuilding our biotechnological achievements gradually, because that is how our society and science can become sound again.
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