More Hwang Fallout at Pitt

It is reported here that the University of Pittsburgh Research Integrity Panel concluded that Dr. Gerald Schatten didn’t intentionally fabricate data, but he committed “research misbehavior” in signing his name to Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s work in South Korea.

The panel found Schatten, as co-author with Hwang on a 2005 article in the journal Science, “did not exercise a sufficiently critical perspective as a scientist.” By not properly checking the veracity of the paper, Schatten committed “a serious failure that facilitated the publication” of the work, the panel said….

The report was also critical of Schatten’s acceptance of $40,000 from Hwang over 15 months, including $10,000 in cash while attending a press conference after the 2005 paper was published…

The report details how Schatten helped Hwang gain recognition, something the panel said likely encouraged Hwang to offer Schatten authorship of the paper. Schatten nominated Hwang for foreign membership in the United States National Academy of Sciences and with others for a Nobel Prize.

The panel also noted another example of Schatten putting his name to a paper where he seemed to have little or no input. In a Hwang paper on the cloning of a dog, Schatten’s only contribution as co-author was to suggest that a professional photographer take the dog’s picture, the panel said. Independent tests indicate Hwang’s claims to have cloned a dog are true.


  1. John A
    Posted Feb 15, 2006 at 5:02 PM | Permalink

    $10,000 for attending a press conference? I’m in the wrong line of work. Even Linda Evangelista would get out of bed for that much.

    Mind you though, it would take more than money to repair Dr Schatten’s reputation as a scientist. Which is a shame, because I’m sure he believed the Hwang hype (as did most of South Korea and most of the genetics community worldwide), and thought he was helping publicize important work.

  2. jae
    Posted Feb 15, 2006 at 10:26 PM | Permalink

    Wonder how much hockey sick players get to present their “independent” research findings….

  3. John A
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 2:54 AM | Permalink

    Re #2

    I wouldn’t suspect that they’d get very much for things like that, but this is all about publicity for their “important work” for further research grants. I don’t think their primary motive is personal financial gain.

    Dr Schatten’s career has been blighted by the Hwang affair. I don’t think he’ll make the same mistake again. I think he will discover the virtues of skepticism and proper audit.

  4. Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    My mentor early in my career once said – “Science is the only profession where you can be wrong every time and still be successful”. I thought – that’s the job for me!

  5. John A
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

    Re: #4

    That reminds me of the observation given by Max Miller to a young comedian Bob Monkhouse.

    “Comedy’s a funny thing. It’s the one thing you can do badly…and nobody will laugh at you!”

  6. kim
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

    How quaint our most modern ideas will one day seem.

  7. Dave Eaton
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

    Re: #4

    We also used to joke in grad school that by being less careful, you could triple your publication rate: the quick communication, the full paper, and finally the formal retraction. (Since some tenure committees seem to just count citations without reference to quality, it might work…)

    Alas, I didn’t go into academia. But with the startlingly low standards at the patent office, similar reasoning might apply…

  8. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 1:07 PM | Permalink

    Re #4 – Some say that about Meteorology – but they never give credit when the forecast is correct- which is actually most of the time for issues up to 48 hours. That statement applies more to Government economists. However it is time to dig out my favorite from the permanent spot in my briefcase.
    6 Phases of a Project:
    1. Enthusiasm
    2. Disillusionment
    3. Panic
    4. Search for the guilty
    5. Punishment of the innocent
    6. Praise and honors for the non-participants.

  9. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

    #8. You’ll be amused by the post here where yours truly admitted to liking a slight variation on the above 6 steps.

  10. Mike Rankin
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 4:35 PM | Permalink

    #9. Your link goes to a login screen.Steve: Fixed

  11. The Knowing One
    Posted Feb 16, 2006 at 9:55 PM | Permalink

    The current issue of Science (February 17th, p. 928) has a News item about the Pitt investigation. Here is an interesting quote.

    [The Pitt report] says Schatten’s behind-the-scenes “lobbying” of Science editors helped assure the publication of a 2004 paper (12 March 2004, p. 1669) on the development of stem cells from a cloned human embryo, a charge Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy denies, saying, “If anything, hearing from Jerry was a distraction.”

    This seems to implicitly acknowledge that Schatten lobbied substantially, albeit claiming to negligible effect.

  12. John Hekman
    Posted Feb 17, 2006 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

    Jim Hansen is inadvertantly doing a lot of damage to AGW in his rage over being “gagged” by NASA. The remarks quoted in UK’s Independent today should be enshrined here along with other classics of “scientists gone wild.”

    He is gaga over the Greenland ice sheet, which is losing small amounts of ice today, but he is convinced that the “tipping point” is coming. Therefore, since it serves his purpose, the climate models can be thrown out the window:

    Today’s forecasts of sea-level rise use climate models of the ice sheets that say they can only disintegrate over a thousand years or more. But we can now see that the models are almost worthless. They treat the ice sheets like a single block of ice that will slowly melt. But what is happening is much more dynamic.

    Are we frustrated that climate models only produce a sea level rise of a few centimeters in the next century? Well, make up your own estimate then:

    The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today – which is what we expect later this century – sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don’t act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth’s history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.

    This seems to be a new phenomenon. Hansen is rejecting the models from the other side, the alarmist side. What will the IPCC do with this? Is Hansen now a “sceptic”?

  13. John Hekman
    Posted Feb 17, 2006 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

    Sorry, here’s the link:

  14. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 17, 2006 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    RE: #12. In the science and engineering fields I have witnessed this before. A person moves into a religious fervor regarding a “finding” or theory and some sort of switch goes off, then, self destructive hysteria ensues. Some people have a large need to “be right” which is probably what attracted them to become a scientist or engineer in the first place. At least based on what is being printed by the press, it appears that Hansen is now there.

  15. john lichtenstein
    Posted Feb 17, 2006 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

    Steve Sadlov this behaviour is sometimes called “retired engineer’s syndrome”.

  16. ET SidViscous
    Posted Feb 17, 2006 at 5:59 PM | Permalink

    Don’t forget as Junkscience has pointed out. Budget cuts are coming at NASA. Because he is being “gagged”* he secures his funding because if it’s being cut he can claim it was political. So by starting early he fires the first shot in saving his funding.

    *(How does someone that is being muzzled get into the national press 4 days a week)

  17. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Feb 17, 2006 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

    RE: #15 – Indeed! There are many retired engineers in these here parts and I do declare, you are 100% correct!

%d bloggers like this: