Faking Scientific Results Never a Long-Term Prospect

News from the the laboratory of Woo Suk Hwang doesn't look so good - we'll see just how much or little of the research of the past few years remains as valid after the dust settles. This is unfortunate, to say the least; I'm not in a position to understand where this places the march towards regenerative medicine:

If the Korean lab can't clone embryonic stem cells from adults, can anybody? How close are we to achieving that goal in reality? How much of a real setback is it for stem cell science if we can't, given that the application of embryonic stem cells to therapies was probably some way off anyway?

Faking results just isn't a long-term prospect in scientific circles. This is why you can place a good deal more trust in the scientific method and scientific community than in other classes of human endeavor (such as, say, politics - the anti-science in many ways). The culture of science is based on truth and layer upon layer of verification, cross-checking and testing. The scientific community is ruthless when it comes to finding and punishing outright misrepresentation. Fabricate your results and you will be ostracised; many careers are already effectively over because of this affair, no matter what the final outcome.

And the obvious question: what were Hwang and company thinking? What made them think that they could fabricate results for a study that would inevitably receive almost unlimited scholarly attention? ... There's an old wry observation that if you look back at disastrously bad decisions made throughout history, you could probably find someone connected to each who would have said, "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time." But I can't see how anyone in the Hwang lab could have ever even thought that.

Yes, indeed.

Technorati tags: ,


Insane. Among other things, other labs will sooner or later try to reproduce the process that lead the earlier team to their findings, but the claimed results can't be reproduced since they are faked. It's just so obvious that they can't get away with something like this.

Posted by: ND at December 16th, 2005 1:42 AM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.