All - not just nine - of Hwang Woo-Suk's eleven stem cell lines were fabricated, a panel of Seoul National University concluded today.
Moreover, the Washington Post claims that the Korean government has probably bribed some scientists - potential whistleblowers - in order to protect the non-existent good name of Korean biology in the international context.
Some people argue that the whole science will suffer as a consequence of this scandal. I don't buy these worries. If someone criticizes the work of the Korean scientists; as well as the work of their colleagues everywhere in the world who could not figure out what was going on; as well as the work of the journalists who inflated this research into a sensation; as well as the editors of the journals and the Korean government officials who have paid a lot of money without proper checks and balances - I am convinced that at least 90% of this criticism is justified.
People will keep on trying to develop these technologies that could be used to cure many diseases because the potential benefits are huge. They will do so in many countries (and many states) that don't ban this research. I am not afraid that the research will collapse. And the scientists will no longer be viewed as innocent angels. This is very correct. The scientists may be smart and they can work a lot, but they can still share vices with ordinary, mortal human beings. The real science and the ideal science are two different things. For example, many colleagues of ours care about the money far too much. Hwang et al. received 60 million dollars or so. This is not a formality. Many of us would be, unfortunately, ready to improve the results in order to get this money.
It is very important to know that an article published in Science or Nature does not have to be correct. A scientist identified as a top scientist by the Scientific American may be a bubble of fraud. Whenever there is a lot of money at stake, the probability that something is fraud increases. The fields with huge potential applications - in medicine or politics of "climate change" - are the first ones where fraud should be expected and where efficient mechanisms to prevent such fraud should be developed.
Recall that in November, we discussed why Most published findings are false. It was explained that a paper is more likely to be wrong if the field is hot, if the financial stakes are high, if the sample size is small, and if a small fraction of relationships is tested. Hwang's research fits into a large portion of these criteria - so it should have been expected that it was not right.
The work of reviewers is usually not paid at all and it turned out to be quite inefficient in dividing good stuff from bad stuff. Maybe these guys eventually find out that submitting their work to the arXiv is as good as publishing things in Nature and Science. However, new policies to avoid similar fraudulent research in the future will be required, I think.