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Hwang Aftereffects Reverberate at Journals

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Science  20 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5759, pp. 321
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5759.321b

As Science announced its retraction last week of two fraudulent papers by teams led by Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University, other journals that had published papers by the disgraced Korean scientist or his colleagues at MizMedi Hospital in Seoul were investigating whether phony or misleading data had appeared in their pages, too.

Hwang and his co-authors published a flurry of papers in at least nine journals within the past 2 years. Molecules and Cells, a Korean journal that published several papers last year on human embryonic stem (ES) cells and cloning by the MizMedi co-authors, told Science it would formally retract three papers on 28 February. Associate Editor Ahn Kwangseog said photographs used in those papers also appeared in papers submitted to Science, Stem Cells, Reproduction, and Biology of Reproduction.

Biology of Reproduction has already retracted one paper—on an animal-free culture system for human ES cells—because of apparent duplication of images that also appeared in the 2004 Science paper. Judith Jansen, managing editor of the journal, says she does not know whether additional papers have problems; the journal has published at least four co-authored by either Hwang or the MizMedi group. “We're looking at everything that we have,” Jansen says.

The journal Stem Cells has expressed “concern” about a technical paper from MizMedi researchers on the cultivation of human ES cells, citing apparent duplications of images within the paper as well as use of an image that also appeared in the 2004 Science paper. Editor-in-Chief Curt Civin of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, says the authors have acknowledged “mistakes.” The journal is awaiting results of investigations under way in Korea to determine whether the paper is still valid.

At Molecular Reproduction and Development, editors are sifting through at least six Hwang-authored papers, all of them involving research with animals, while they await results of investigations under way in Korea and at the University of Pittsburgh, according to Susan Spilka of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.

No end in sight.

More papers by the Hwang team are under investigation.


Several other journals published papers detailing animal studies by Hwang or the MizMedi group. Anthony Trioli of Elsevier, publisher of Theriogenology, says it is looking into an unspecified number of papers; the results aren't expected for several weeks.

A spokesperson for the publisher of the Korean Journal of Veterinary Science, said the journal is not investigating a Hwang paper from last year.

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