Friday, April 06, 2007

British Medical Journal Discloses More Details in Cha Matter

The British Medical Journal has taken up the matter of Kwang Yul Cha and allegations of plagiarism against him, an issue that has raised concerns from two stem cell watch dog groups in California.

The four-page article in the April 7 issue of BMJ begins like this:
"A bitter dispute over the authorship of a twice published medical paper has pitted a 35 year-old Korean doctor against one of the most powerful players in the country’s struggle for biotech supremacy. The battle is threatening to disrupt Korea’s efforts to recover scientific credibility in the wake of the recent scandal over Woo-Sok Hwang’s stem cell research."
Cha is of special interest in California because the state's stem cell agency last month approved a $2.6 million research grant to a non-profit subsidiary, CHA RMI, of the CHA Health Systems organization, which is headed by Cha. The Oversight Committee of the California stem cell agency approved the grant with little discussion and no public notice prior to approval that it was for CHI RMI. CIRM's standard practice is to withhold the names of grant applicants. Following public disclosure six days later of the linkage between CHA RMI and Cha, two watchdog groups raised questions about grant.

The BMJ article was written by Jonathan Gornall, who added details and new information to what already has been reported concerning Cha. Gornall wrote:
"Now, as the dispute escalates into a series of allegations and counter allegations, the editor in chief of Fertility and Sterility has been accused of defamation and threatened with legal action by Dr. Cha. However, the BMJ has also learnt that following an investigation by the public prosecutor’s office in Korea, Dr. Sook Hwan Lee, one of Dr. Cha’s coauthors on the disputed paper, has been charged with criminal copyright infringement. The dispute is a major embarrassment for the CHA organisation, which only recently hired Professor Kwang Soo Kim, a respected Harvard professor, to boost its credibility in stem cell research."
Gornall continued:

"On 7 March, Dr.(Alan) DeCherney (editor of Fertility and Sterility) received a letter from lawyers acting on behalf of Dr. Cha. It quoted comments attributed to him in the LA Times on 18 February and in The Scientist on 20 February and accused him of having made 'false and defamatory statements' about Dr. Cha. It threatened legal action and demanded that Dr. DeCherney sign a statement of retraction. The letter, seen by the BMJ, calls for Dr. DeCherney to 'acknowledge that 1) Dr. Cha was entitled to be credited as an author of the F&S [Fertility and Sterility] article; 2) you have no reason to disbelieve Dr. Cha’s statement that he was unaware of the prior publication in the KSOG Journal; and 3) Dr. Cha did not plagiarise Dr. (Jeong Hwan) Kim’s work, in that Dr. Kim’s name was on the list of authors initially submitted to F&S by Dr. Lee, and was only omitted because he could not be located.'"
Gornall continued:
"Professor Kwang Soo Kim, director of the molecular neurobiology laboratory at Harvard’s Mclean Hospital and the newly recruited codirector of the CHA Stem Cell Institute, now finds himself having to defend his new employer. No fewer than three of his new colleagues at the institute including his fellow codirector, Hyung Min Chung are among the disputed authors on the paper. In February he wrote to Dr. DeCherney of Fertility and Sterility on behalf of the CHA organisation as 'a fellow research scientist with more than 23 years of research experience in the US as well as first-hand knowledge of standard practices in the scientific community in Korea,' to express regret about the incident.

"In his letter, a copy of which the CHA organisation sent to the BMJ, he suggests that 'The main issue that appears to be at the center of this controversy is the multiple publication of the paper.' But he then makes a disturbing disclosure: 'In Korea, it has been a customary practice and an accepted procedure by the scientific community to submit top-quality research outcomes concurrently (or subsequently) to internationally-recognized journals in an effort to promote and advance the work of Korean scientists, which was also the case when Dr Lee submitted her paper to Fertility and Sterility.

"'I personally have very strong objections to this practice and have been trying to convince the scientific leaders in Korea to put a stop to this. It was only recently in 2006 that this guideline was in fact revised in Korea to prohibit this practice.'

"Professor Kim’s intervention leaves little doubt about how seriously the CHA group views the potential of the incident to damage its bid to inherit Hwang’s crown: 'The reputation and credibility of our university and that of its researchers and scientists are also at stake,' Professor Kim writes. 'This is an extremely critical issue in light of the fact that I believe our institution will serve a pivotal role in restoring the severely damaged reputation and credibility of stem cell and life science research in Korea after the Hwang scandal.'"
We have queried DeCherney concerning his response to the letter from Cha's lawyers.

For previous items on the the CHA story, see "Secrecy," "Example," "CGS" and "FTCR." Sphere: Related Content

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