[JD EDITORIAL]Keeping “Bio Korea” alive

January 11, 2006

Seoul National University¡¯s president, Chung Un-chan, apologized for a team led by his school¡¯s faculty member, Hwang Woo-suk, and misconduct that should not have been committed by scientists. ¡°I will handle this matter sternly,¡± Mr. Chung said.
The government stripped Dr. Hwang of all his public posts and honors, including the title of ¡°best scientist.¡± The prosecution has promised an investigation.
Arguing that he could not trust the Seoul National University investigation panel¡¯s findings, though he agrees that he is responsible for problems, Dr. Hwang scheduled a press conference to lay out his side of the story. But the situation has already passed the point of no return.
As we review the history, there is still an unanswered question. How could more than 20 co-authors of two papers be completely deceived twice? It is hard to explain without suggesting collusion and connivance.
Dr. Hwang and key figures of the research are still not confessing the truth of the matter. This is an issue of research ethics. If keeping silent about deceptions and fabrications are a common practice, then we could face another scientific fraud at any time. Tell-tales and disclosures will be rampant, and unfortunate incidents of holding trials to verify the scientific truth will be repeated.
The international science community and media say Dr. Hwang¡¯s case is a historic scientific fraud. We see nothing but ruin and wounds. Mr. Chung of Seoul National University pledged to make this incident a turning point for Korea¡¯s bioscience to leap forward. ¡°We will build again a respectable academic tradition by treading on this disgrace and despair,¡± he promised.
The government also said it would continue supporting techniques of animal cloning and blastocyst formation, both evaluated as internationally competitive by the Seoul panel. That was an appropriate decision. It is time to rise again.
Bioengineering is a virgin land and international competition is fierce to dominate this future market. Bioscience requires enormous government funding to bear fruit. We must not allow taxpayers¡¯ money to be poured into fraudulent research again. Our urgent task is to restore conscientious research ethics and introduce a system to evaluate research findings critically. That will turn this debacle into an opportunity.
For our future, we must not give up the bioengineering industry. We must keep the embers of hope for ¡°Bio Korea¡± alight.

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