Journal is advised to check for fraud

Panel urges `Science' to intensify reviews

November 29, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

The journal Science must intensify its screening process to weed out fraudulent studies, an independent panel said yesterday after investigating how the journal published two high-profile stem cell studies that turned out to be bogus.

The report recommended that Science establish a system to red flag studies that claim major breakthroughs in high-visibility fields - such as climate change and human health - that could influence public policy.

The bar should also be raised if the authors stand to gain financially from a publication in Science, the panel concluded.

Donald Kennedy, editor of Science, said the staff has already begun discussing the criteria to identify papers that should be subject to more stringent review and what that review should entail.

To increase accountability, the panel recommended that studies with multiple authors should spell out the role of each contributor. It also urged that all papers include more primary data.

But no set of procedures will be able to prevent all cases of intentional fraud, said John I. Brauman, a Stanford University chemist who led the panel.

"Reviewers and editors look for errors in logic, flawed experiments and inconsistencies with the established literature," Brauman said. "None of us think that all fraud can be detected, but we do believe that it can be deterred."

The panel was commissioned by Science this summer after the journal was forced to retract two studies published 2004 and 2005 by South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk.

He gained worldwide acclaim for his apparent feat of cloning human embryos and using them to make embryonic stem cells.

His employer, Seoul National University, later concluded the cell line was faked.

Hwang, who is on trial for embezzlement and violations of bioethics laws, maintains the discoveries were real.

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