Friday, October 10, 2014

Cheating case in science (1)

Science is rapidly progressing today. Many innovative discoveries are reported one after another. However, some of them are far from the truth, unfortunately.

Waseda University has decided to deprive the doctorate of Haruko Obokata, a researcher of biology who is suspected to duplicate a result of experiments recently.

Mainichi: Waseda to strip Obokata of doctorate unless dissertation corrected

Obokata was paid attention for the discovery of the STAP stem cell. If it was true, many innovative solution for the treatment of disease would be realized. But after many investigations of her paper in detail, it has become quite doubtful of her success. At last, she retracted the paper from Nature, an honorable academic journal.

Retraction Watch: Obokata agrees to retract both STAP stem cell papers: Report

Now, Obokata and her colleagues belonging to Riken are engaged in an experiment to replicate Obokata's result. But it seems extremely difficult, for several evidences suggest the absence of STAP stem cells.

Obokata's doctoral dissertation is not concerned with the issue of STAP stem cell directly. However, she was proven to have done some tricks in writing this paper. The investigating committee concluded that her dissertation did not deserve doctorate, but not to be necessary to be stripped. Yet being broadly criticized, Waseda University had no choice but the decision.

It is suggested that Waseda hesitated to deprive her doctorate, because if it have done, many dissertations has to be reinvestigated as well, leading to mass stripping. Too much blame gets rid of motivation from whom concerned. We also must not forget that a promised scientist killed himself suffering from this matter.

My Past Entry: Suicide in Japan, is it a culture?

Actually, Waseda has given Obokata the second chance, accepting her excuse that she had submitted a misidentified draft. I guess that Waseda will admit her doctorate finally.

It is difficult how to deal with this kind of case. I think Obokata is considerably doubtful. But some studies are difficult to assess the worth correctly. As science grows, many discoveries triumphed in the past will be proven as false. It is said that only one-fourth of papers published in famous journals survive a decade. Additionally, we have to be aware that this kind of issue is sometimes abused in a political context.

My Past Entry: Resign of Schavan: suspicious charge of plagiarism

(To be continued)

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