Friday, January 13, 2006

Embryonic stem cells drama (or comedy?)

Hwang Woo-suk went in a relatively short time from international research hero (hailed as the "Stem Cell" Man) to one of the most disgraced scientists in human history. At this moment he faces prosecution in his own country and his two landmark co-authored papers were finally withdrawn by the editors from Science. Today Hwang has apologized (once more) for his fraudulent published research but continues to claim that he has the technology to create stem cells lines matched to patients, despite the evidence to the contrary.
While the story will probably last a few more months and final conclusions should be drawn then, this is already an excellent example showing that the "noble scientific research" itself is certainly not missing anything in terms of less noble human characters. Au contraire, "the end justifies the means" is possibly becoming more of a motto in this area than anywhere else. Long gone are the days when scientists were bespectacled, weird looking nerds with long disheveled hair and no feeling for anything else than their lab experiments and equations; today- an awful development if you ask me- the scientist became- helas!- yet another smooth politician looking for short-lived recognition and glory. Well, you tell me whether I am exaggerating or not, but must say that - although I am part of this "scientific community"- I haven't heard of such an absent-minded Paul Erdos adorable type of scientist in ages, while you hear every day of yet another crook who faked his research just to get published fast. Usually the arguments they invoque when caught is that the pressure to publish was simply too high for them. Well, "publish or perish" is what they chose for and nobody forced them into this area, so at least they should die with dignity...

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