49 - Clone Wars
More openness about the ancestry would have saved a lot of effort and money.
At the beginning of the 2000s, stem cell research was the greatest hope for the development of new therapies. Therefore, it was nothing short of sensational when a relatively unknown Korean laboratory under the leadership of Woo-Suk Hwang announced in two publications in the prestigious journal Science in 2004 and 2005 that it had extracted a total of 11 stem cell lines from cloned human embryos. At first, a new era of stem cell research seemed to be imminent and researchers around the world were trying to replicate the Hwang method. Unfortunately, to no avail.
A good year after the publication of the second paper, inconsistencies and striking similarities were noticed in the articles´ illustrations. A commission was set up to analyse the primary data. The results prompted the commission to conduct tests on DNA samples. It turned out that none of the stem cell lines came from cloned embryos. All the information and representations in the publications were fabricated. By then, millions of grant money around the world had flown into replicating the results - for nothing.
If the journal in which the articles were published had insisted that Hwang and his co-authors provide the primary data as a supplement, the fraud attempt would most likely have been uncovered immediately. Insistence on open research data could have created transparency and prevented the waste of funding. Following the well publicized case, major journals changed their publication policies and research funding organizations began to pay greater attention to openly accessible research data.
- On Being a Scientist. A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition (2009), https://doi.org/10.17226/12192