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.