By Yi Whan-woo
A stem cell researcher at Seoul National University (SNU) is suspected of fabricating 14 studies submitted to international scientific journals for publication, the school said Monday.
The misconduct of the researcher, if proven to be true, could deal a severe blow to the nation’s efforts to revive its reputation as a world leader in stem cell research following data manipulation in 2005 by then SNU professor Hwang Woo-suk.
“We’re following the matter closely,” a public relations official at the school said. “We are conducting an internal investigation while waiting for the opinion of the international journals.” The researcher is veterinary professor Kang Soo-kyung who is under attack for allegedly using inaccurate data in two stem cell research papers published earlier this month in Antioxidants and Redox Signaling (ARS), a science journal that introduces cuttingedge research on structural biology, stem cells and other fields related to health and disease.
An anonymous reader reported the case in an e-mail to the editor of the journal on May 21.
Kang admitted using inaccurate information when the journal requested verification.
“In response to allegations brought forth by a reader of this Journal, I take full responsibility as corresponding author and accept that some of the data presented is not accurate. I retract the publication in its entirety from scientific literature,” he said in a statement.
The professor also admitted using false information in two other studies that were about to be published by the ARS.
The case, however, did not end there as the whistleblower also pointed out that Kang has consistently used fabricated data in his studies published by the ARS and other international journals since 2006.
In a 70-page report, the whistleblower provided photos, graphs, and other data used by Kang. The report claimed the credibility of the information should be verified.
“(It will be) difficult to find fabricated data as time goes by,” the whistleblower said in statement. “If we don’t stop this author now, no one can prove fabrication later on.” Kang has built his reputation as a stem-cell researcher, and now believes that he has fallen victim to a “malicious scheme.” “About 80 percent of the evidence used against me is false, and I believe we have to consider some malicious intentions involved in this case,” the professor said.
The fabrication allegations came after Prof. Hwang provided false data in his stem cell research work published in Science, a recognized international journal, in 2005 Hwang was regarded as an international pioneer in creating human embryonic stem cells through cloning. And his research fraud tarnished both his and Korea’s reputation in stem cell research.