As I write this, this is breaking news.
A study that appeared to have important implications for embryonic stem cell research was retracted from the journal Science after scientists found that photos in it had been faked.
The headline in Live Mint reads: “Photos found to be fake, Science retracts embryonic cell study.” Not only is this shameful for any scientist, but in this case, it turns out that he is an Indian. This is not yet reported by Reuters, AP, or any other news agency.
Live Mint requires a (free) registration, so I’m reproducing (edited) content here:
A probe by the University of Missouri at Columbia found that the paper’s first author, Kaushik Deb, doctored images from one cell to make it appear they had come from several different cells, said R. Michael Roberts, an animal science professor and Deb’s supervisor, in a letter to the journal.
Science said in October that Deb’s results, published in February 2006, might not be reliable, and it waited for the author’s retraction after the university finished investigating. Science, Nature and other journals have been on guard against retouched pictures since the faked stem cell results of South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk were exposed last year.
Deb was studying which embryonic cells become stem cells and which implant the embryo into the placenta. His studies suggested that a protein, called cdx2, marked cells involved in implantation, suggesting that unmarked cells might be fated to become stem cells.
Other scientists, wary of doctored images after Hwang’s fakery, scrutinized the work closely and determined that a series of photos had been altered to look as though they had come from distinct cells, Roberts said.
Roberts said he didn’t expect to have to ferret out fraud while he was overseeing Deb’s work.
“He was relatively independent; I never looked over his shoulder,” Roberts said in a telephone interview. “Science is based on trust. If you’re going to mentor people, it’s almost impossible to look over their shoulders the whole time.”
Deb has resigned from the university, and Roberts said he believes the young scientist has returned to his home in India. Deb hasn’t returned telephone calls, letters or emails, Roberts said.
Given that stem cell research is already in so much controversy thanks to the religious right, is it wise to create further controversy through fake research? Don’t these scientists have any morals or ethics or a general understanding of what’s happening in society around them? And why does it have to be an Indian?!
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