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More Troubles For Authors of Controversial Acid-Bath Stem Cell Articles 99

bmahersciwriter writes "Reports early this year about a strikingly simple method for deriving pluripotent stem cells were met with amazement and deep skepticism, then claims that the experiments were not reproducible, then accusations of copied and manipulated figures. Now, the first author of one of the papers is being lambasted for having copied the first 20 pages of her doctoral thesis from an NIH primer on stem cells. And an adviser on her thesis committee says he was never asked to review it. Could this get any stranger? Probably!"
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More Troubles For Authors of Controversial Acid-Bath Stem Cell Articles

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  • by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @09:34AM (#46523639)
    When there is obvious chicanery involved and the experiments aren't reproducible, that is not science. Why does this story of science fiction get a science tag? It's not science if it's fake, folks. That's called fraud.
  • by rebelwarlock ( 1319465 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @09:47AM (#46523729)
    It was never strange to begin with. Also, you sound like a twat. Stop that.
  • Re:Motive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @10:20AM (#46523937)

    It could also be the pressure to publish. Lots of scientists have 'performance' goals tied directly to their number of recently published articles.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @10:28AM (#46524007)
    Because "chicanery" is not an absolute for one. I had to look up the definition "the use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose." You could argue that plagarizing text is trickery to get a thesis out and finished, sure. However, if Waseda is anything like my graduate school, background text on things like stem cells were of nearly zero importance. It doesn't sound like she faked any results in her thesis, which is the only part anyone cares about.

    Here was my recipie for my thesis, approved by my thesis adviser and committee: Take two papers you've already published, staple them together. Write up a third part in case I hire someone to finish the stuff you didn't. Get signatures, the end.

    Theses are treated with great esteem in other graduate programs. In science, or at least biology, no one gives a shit about them. My thesis adviser heavily scrutinized the two papers making up the main part of my thesis, they got peer reviewed, but the third part probably got skimmed only by my thesis adviser. Everyone else likely didn't even open the document aside from signing it.

    This is not to say "plagiarism doesn't matter," or that it shouldn't be punished, just that labeling the STAP cells as bogus because of that is an overreaction. It should and IS factoring into skepticism about the results, and it should be and is a black mark on Obokata.

    As far as reproducible, it's still early. It's only a few months old. The Knopfler blog [] is keeping track of some efforts that have failed, but if I recall, it took a year for induced pluripotent stem cells to be reproduced. The detailed protocol was released only two weeks ago [].

    At this point, you can conclude that Obokata should face consequences for plagiarism in her thesis, and that the "easy pluripotent stem cells" headlines were misleading. You can also conclude that more skepticism and scrutiny is merited, though skepticism should be and already was high given how important it is. It's far too early to conclude that it's outright fraud or not science. I've been somewhat following the controversy, there's no smoking gun on the actual science yet.

    Lastly, remember that these are scientists, not PR experts, politicians, or celebrities. Obokata went into hiding after this blew up, I think people smelled blood in the water from that and assumed something fishy was up and not, say, that she was overwhelmed.
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @11:08AM (#46524353) Journal

    No, it's still working well.

    If the fraud is in some boring, uninteresting area that never gets noticed, then it doesn't matter because it affects no one. If work is of interest to anyone else, it will get tested and eventually the truth will come out. If pointless work of interest to no one is never found out then ultimately it does not have much effect.

    I'm not claiming the system is perfect, far from it, but the current one does a good enough job on getting to the truth of things that matter. What it does mean is you have to take obscure articles in obscure areas with a huge grain of salt. You have to do that anyway: even without fraud, many mistakes, biases in data, etc happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @11:26AM (#46524489)

    Your one is clearly an idiot, but an idiot that grew too confident of her own deceiving ways.

    Fraud is rampant in academia for a number of reasons: grants, status, promotions, more grants But give it enough time and the truth eventually surface. Did you forget Jan Hendrik Schön []? Sure there a many others, Ministers, head of AIDS research groups, you name it

    Unfortunately the people that should protect the system (or who are responsible for the system), the gate keepers, they are also milking it. A number of Lecturers and Professors, who should be scrutinizing the submitted thesis, don’t bother really bother doing so. They sit on their titles and collect their fat cheques at the end of each year, congratulating each other.

    Luckily plagiarism checkers are getting better and better. So, hopefully in the future all thesis will mandatorily be checked by a machine prior to submission. Why not check all previously submitted thesis? I’d say the world of PHD holders would shrink drastically.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @12:49PM (#46525195)
    No it isn't. Saying fraud "is not science" is very far from a No True Scotsman argument.

    No True Scotsman arguments rely on someone's opinion of what a Scotsman is. Fraud is in FACT not science. Opinion has nothing to do with it.

    Whether there actually was fraud in this case is another matter. But GP didn't make a comment about this case, he made a general comment about fraud in science. So it wasn't No True Scotsman.

    YOU, on the other hand, say that failing to acknowledge problems in science circles is relevant. But no, it's not. Regardless of the amount of fraud, fraud is still not science. So it's still not No True Scotsman.

    You appear to be thinking of this along the line of those who say that a claim of "slippery slope" is a fallacy. But that's not true either. Slippery slope can be a fallacious argument, when there is no slippery slope. But slippery slopes can and do exist.

    In the same vein, "X is not Y" can be a No True Scotsman argument, but often (I would say usually) is not. This time it is not.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @04:39PM (#46527501) Homepage Journal

    "Removing data points that did not fit their model"

    ", apply transformations to the data points that are not uniform across the entire dataset"

    " using a filter that generates the same output even if the input was noise."

    " Need I go on?"
    Why, do you have actual data?

    You know grabbing onto one headline, and then not following up on what happens and using the one deadline as some sort of proof only shows the worled you are an idiot.

    As it turns out, it was a lot of nothing stirred up by Fox and once the truth came out that the media was lying and using it's ignorance as proof, no one mentioned it again.

    You should follw up on that story.

    here is an overview: []

    If you look you can get into the nitty gritty.
    Her is hoping you can start to use your brain and change a narrative when the facts no longer fit it.

    Douche bag.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"