Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh was one of two corresponding authors (Hwang was the other) of Hwang et al 2005 (Science). As most CA readers know, the Hwang cloning results were fabricated – conduct that, in any field other than climate science, is regarded as more serious than copying boilerplate. For CA posts on this see here.
What happened to Schatten?
A university investigation found that Schatten was not a party to the fabrication of data and was unaware of it. The investigation reported that “Schatten’s only contribution as co-author was to suggest that a professional photographer take the dog’s picture”, that Schatten received over $40,000 from Hwang, including $10,000 in cash while attending a press conference after the 2005 paper was published and that Schatten nominated Hwang for foreign membership in the United States National Academy of Sciences and with others for a Nobel Prize.
Schatten’s webpage shows that he continued to publish and continues to hold the prestigious positions of Director, Pittsburgh Development Center; Deputy Director, Magee-Womens Research Institute; Professor & Vice Chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and Cell Biology and Physiology, University of Pittsburgh; and Director of the Division of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Even though he was a corresponding author, Schatten was not found guilty of misconduct on the fabrication of data because he was unaware of the fabrication and none of the other seemingly questionable actions seem to have offended the university sufficiently to take public discipline.
The underlying events in Schatten’s case were about as serious as it gets in science. In contrast, the Wegman case involves copying of boilerplate text, something that,according to Office of Research Integrity policies , it takes a limited interest in:
“ORI generally does not pursue the limited use of identical or nearly identical phrases which describe a commonly-used methodology or previous research because ORI does not consider such use as substantially misleading to the reader or of great significance.”
Like Schatten, Wegman was unaware that one of his graduate students, as a coauthor of Said et al 2008, had copied boilerplate text into section 1. Despite the much lesser nature of the underlying offence both under ORI policies and common sense, George Mason, apparently responding to pressure from the climate activists, has spent far more time investigating Wegman than the University of Pittsburgh seems to have spent investigating Schatten.
The academic community, or at least climate academics, seems far more aroused by copying boilerplate than withholding adverse results – the precise opposite of the relative importance assigned to these offences by professionals. I wrote about the failure of academics take withholding adverse results as seriously as they should in a 2005 CA post (long before the present controversy) as follows:
It’s hard to find much discussion of case studies involving omission of data by scientists, as opposed to cases involving plagiarism or making up data. This, in itself, is interestingly different from business situations, where omission of information is usually the issue and deserves an explanation. To someone with a business background, the apparent preoccupation of academics with plagiarism, relative to full disclosure, appears rather precious. To some extent, the battles are about vanity and personal “property” interests, rather than about protection of the public.
In that post, I commented that the problem of withholding adverse data (e.g. adverse MBH98 verification statistics) occasioned zero interest among academics, although non-academics took it very seriously. The same issues arose with Hide-the-Decline, something that professionals were appalled by, but, by and large, didn’t bother academics. Pielke Jr explained that “fudging” to make a point is viewed by many academics as acceptable practice.
So what happened to Gerald Schatten? Despite the seriousness of the Hwang affair, between nothing and negligible. And it was over quickly. In contrast, despite the relative triviality of copying boilerplate without proper attribution and the fact that it was done by a junior coauthor/contributor, the Wegman inquiry has been going on for months and climate activists want blood – not from Walid Sharabati or Denise Reeves, but from Wegman.