Obokata to leave hospital to fight data fabrication claims

Picture expired. Haruko Obokata, RIKEN Institute researcher, at a press conference at the Riken center in Kobe in Hyogo prefecture on January 28, 2014 AFP

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  • -13

    Thunderbird

    First time I saw her on tv (on mute) I thought she was korean because I saw her name 小保方 "Obokata" and mixed up with 新大久保 Shin-Okubo and because she's damn hot!

  • -6

    Alejandro S. Arashi

    Lol@thunderbird

  • 4

    JoshuYaki

    The oyaji are going to burn the witch to absolve themselves I guess...

  • 3

    EthanWilber

    It won’t matter if she is able put on her bravery face as an effort to save her work or her face in the predicable media feeding frenzy. Her credibility is pretty much a goner at this point.

    Thanks to her, Waseda University starts investigating all the doctoral theses submitted in its scientific departments since 2007. if plagiarism or any other serious misconduct are found, Waseda is going to revoke the doctorates awarded.

  • 0

    presto345

    Thanks to her, Waseda University starts investigating all the doctoral theses submitted in its scientific departments since 2007. if plagiarism or any other serious misconduct are found, Waseda is going to revoke the doctorates awarded.

    Oh, yeah?

  • 6

    Samuel_kb_Ampong

    Ethan, I wish it weren't so, but it's already come to light that 20 pages of her doctoral thesis were copied-and-pasted directly from a US government site. Her PhD might be rescinded, though I hope that the original research she performs isn't discredited any further.

    All she had to do was say something like, "The informative explanation given in Smith (2010: 1-10) cannot be surpassed, and here I will quote from it directly," and it would have been fine. And of course the thesis committee deserves some blame for not spotting the plagiarism. Maybe she thought that since it was in English, it might receive less scrutiny.

  • 0

    presto345

    The last word hasn't been spoken or will be for a while about Obokata's research and subsequent witch hunts. Only last week Prof. Vacanti of Harvard said he had no intention of retracting any of the published articles. He believed that although the manuscript contained errors the scientific content and conclusions are not affected. He also mentioned a team of Chinese Hong Kong University replicated the experiment to create STAP cells.

  • 4

    EthanWilber

    As I said before, her research work could be savaged in part if she is lucky enough, but her academic integrity as well as her credibility is a different ball game amid her apparently questionable conducts and practices not to mention all of the investigations swirled around her in next few months.

  • -3

    cracaphat

    She's finally coming out of hiding to face the music.About time too.She's had a month to fabricate her story, so let's see if she's a better story teller than "The Beethoven" phony.

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    "Observers suggest Obokata is likely to catch the worst of any punishment, with her mentors—who have apologized for “not offering enough support to young researchers”—expected to receive no more than a slap on the wrist."

    Let the witch-hunt continue. Throw her in the ocean and see if she flies out -- that's the kind of science these men are on par with.

  • 2

    Cos

    Haruko Obokata, 30, was admitted to hospital on Monday because her “mental and physical condition is unstable”,

    That's what they said about Camille Claudel.

    . if plagiarism or any other serious misconduct are found, Waseda is going

    Whatever, they'll make sure they don't find anything except against 1 or 2 persons they wanted to get rid of anyway.

    already come to light that 20 pages of her doctoral thesis were copied-and-pasted directly from a US government site.

    20 pages out of thousands ? She's just forgot the source of a quote. These days plagiarism (and they catch many) is about peeps that take hundreds of pages, if not the whole thesis. I don't say she is angel. I can believe she kind of cheated. But, that can't be as much as they all say now, I really think she is getting more trouble than usual because of her coworkers that apparently never accepted her. Otherwise, if she was one of them, fraud or not, they'd let her the benefit of doubt, just like they did with thousands of scientists that published stuff that could never be duplicated and just said "ooops, I published that a bit quickly...". In the worst case, they are told to leave the team of famous sensei and go to work in a third rank uni. And what is unfair is she has not got a yen, while it's likely most of her mentors "arrange" their results to please sponsors that fund their labs (even unis) and may even give them bribes. She should have said she could prove hunting whales was scientific or that pickled sakura could prevent all illnesses if you ate one per day all your life.

  • 9

    lambda

    20 pages out of thousands ?

    I am not sure if you have read many PhD theses or if in your field they do stuff differently, but they normally rack up between 50 and 300 pages, depending on the field and format. Obokata's stands at 108 pages. I, however, wholly agree with you in that the reasons for copying text need not be sinister. I can imagine she never thought anyone would actually read the thesis. Now in social sciences (for example) this might sound surprising, but in the natural sciences, it is customary to publish 3 - 10 papers in peer reviewed journals as a part of your PhD, and the thesis just serves a writeup/introduction to these (quite often the papers themselves are actually slapped to the end as an appendix). The data is often presented better, without extra introductory comments, in the papers, which are often also more readily available than the thesis. I am sure that if you started going through different PhD theses to see if they had obtained the copyright permissions to use the images they do in the background/introductory segments, you would find violations left and right. For some reason people tend to know it is illegal to share movies online without permission, but are not aware that the very same laws apply to copyrighted photographs and images.

    What is more worrying is that Obokata has in several of her papers and patents lifted text out of others' work: http://stapcell.blogspot.jp/. This again is not likely done with bad intent, I am guessing it is a work of someone whose command of English is not very good, but it is very much unprofessional. Papers have been retracted for similar breaches before, so it is unfair to say that Obokata has been singled out by the global scientific community. Naturally the media has been more frenzied than usual, but the claims in the paper were quite grand and were initially given so much hype in the media much thanks to the fact that Obokata is a pretty Japanese woman (at least in Japan the media played this normal housewife theme a lot).

    As for Obokata being targeted by RIKEN in internal power politics, I'd say that this is not entirely unlikely. Note that it is quite surprising that in a country where age plays a huge role in determining one's place at work and in society, Obokata at 30 yrs old has somehow managed the status of team leader at RIKEN. I went through some 10 random labs from the RIKEN directory, and the fastest of them had become a team leader 5 years after his PhD. Now for her defence I might say that stem cells are a hot field right now, so maybe they had a lot of funds to throw at the direction of anyone competent. But at the same time I would not be surprised if she had connections to get her where she is and now someone is taking revenge or whatever. Speculating on the specifics is, however, not fruitful. In any case, I do not think this has to do anything with the fact that Obokata is a woman per se.

  • 0

    JeffLee

    At today's news conference, she will need to address the fact that no one else is able to replicate her findings.

  • 2

    Strangerland

    As far as I recall, it took three years to replicate the experiment that created Dolly the cloned sheep. And that experiment has been proven to be true. These things can take time.

  • 2

    chikv

    You can easily understand when a paper has problems being replicated, or figures that appear to be modified inappropriately, or a sloppy materials and methods section... But when you find all three things in the same paper, then a retraction should be done. The most important part of the paper is that this method could get stem cells much easily than before, but if you can't get the same results after a lot of effort then it has no meaning.

    I do think that her as the first author should be held responsible for all the problems that happened with this paper, but also the co-authors and the RIKEN professors that failed to do what they were supposed to do, specifically they should have made sure that the paper was written truthfully and correctly and that appropriate laboratory practices were in place. Unfortunately for now it appears that only one person will be punished and that is deeply unjust.

    Anyway, as long as researchers jobs and laboratory budgets depends principally on the number of papers published in "good" journals with high impact factor this kind of scandals will keep appearing.

  • 0

    tmarie

    While I think she is the victim of sexism and the "old boy's club", I'm tired of folks painting her as just a poor, innocent victim. She clearly violated ethics and copywrite laws by copying massive chunks of not only her PhD but also this research. The comment of "she forgot" is a joke. You don't forget such things, more so when you have a PhD riding on it. She was more than happy to play the role of "girlie in the lab" and it seems it worked for some of you folks who seem to think she's a victim of a witchhunt. She's not. She's being treated rather nicely considering what would happen to her if she was abroad and it was found out her PhD was a copy and paste job. Her PhD would be long gone - and I am hoping this happened to her. You do NOT copy 20 pages for your PhD dissertation - referenced or not. It is NOT done.

    However, that being said, why are the men involved not being taken to task as well? This is an issue but let's be honest, she's toast and rightly so. Waseda needs to take part of the blame, the committee who gave her her PhD, the profs she studied under, the journal who published her work and the guys with their names on the paper. They need to be taken to task too.

  • 1

    JoiceRojo

    20 pages out of 108 is way too much!!!!

    My Dissertation has 150 pages, 11 of them are the references (even the stuff I took from web articles), there are quotes, yes, but that's because the area was social sciences and many useful stuff you find it in web articles.

    You cannot "forget" to quote something specially if is 20% of your work.

    I really want to believe that she's gifted and her research to be true, or at least she would have taken a step further the research of others to have real results, but this makes difficult to believe, where's the formality?, and she's toast as tmarie says, and the thing that saddens me that at that age she couldn't pull that off alone, where are her mentors? the university?

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