Stap cells, Dr. Obokata, Riken, and truth

Today, in the Japan Times newspaper, as well as online, Otake-san has written an article about scientific misconduct and cover-ups in Japan.

I have been quite confused since Dr. Obokata’s press conference in which she so passionately put forward her case of discovering STAP cells while denying any intentional wrong doings.

Is she telling the truth? Is she a troubled person unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood? Is she being thrown under the bus by male superiors because she is a woman?

Today I contacted my good friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Geller, of the Earth Sciences department at Tokyo University. Dr. Geller has much experience publishing in prestigious refereed journals, Nature included. Dr. Geller answered my questions in a measured way. He referred me to his April 18th post on www.ipscell which you can read in its entirety here.

“So the bottom line is that Riken has thrown Dr. Obokata under the bus (at least for the moment), and that she and her legal team appear to be trying to pull Dr. Wakayama down under the bus to join her, while Dr. Sasai, who also acted to keep her under the bus, is trying to throw Dr. Wakayama under it too.”  [from Dr. Geller's online post]

Who is telling the truth here, Riken, Obokata, Wakayama, Sasai? I suggest that we do not rush to judgment in this case. If Dr. Obokata’s experiments can be reproduced, I suggest that we forgive her, as she said, “immature mistakes”. But obviously Riken, a quasi-government laboratory, and its management are quite guilty of sloppy peer review and lack of oversight no matter the scientific outcome.

Don’t fret for them, however. If they lose their jobs they can always go work for TEPCO.

In post-Fukushima policy test, Japan town rallies for nuclear re-start

Children look through windows at their playground as the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) volunteers removed ice and snow and levelled dirt in the ground, at a Miyakoji child care center at Miyakoji area in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture, April 1, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Children look through windows at their playground as the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) volunteers removed ice and snow and levelled dirt in the ground, at a Miyakoji child care center at Miyakoji area in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture, April 1, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Mari Saito, from Reuters, published a great article on the town of Satsumasendai where Kyushu Electric Power Company’s Sendai Nuclear Power Station has been “fast tracked” for restart. Saito-san points out the conflict between the personal economic needs of a small town and concerns about accident possibilities.

Read the full article on Reuters UK: In post-Fukushima policy test, Japan town rallies for nuclear re-start

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