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twoday.net AGB

Science's role in the stem cell cloning fake criticized

The current cloning scam is taking its toll on the publishers. I was surprised how outspoken Benjamin Lewin (the one with the book), founder and former editor of Cell, critized Science recently. From the NY Times article:

"It sounds as though their processes were rather sloppy," said Dr. Benjamin Lewin, the founder and former editor of Cell, a biology journal known for its rigor. "At a minimum, Science should have been more careful and should never have reached the stage of publishing a paper with identical photos," he said, referring to the fact that some photos of cell colonies in Dr. Hwang's 2005 article were duplicates of one another.

Dr. Lewin said that a journal editor needed to develop an intimate knowledge of his reviewers' strengths and weaknesses, and that "Nature and Science don't have the reputation for rigorous review."


However, digging a little I realized that this is not the first time that Lewin critizes Science harshly. It seems as if the quarrel is going back more than 20 years as can see from this discussion on press embargoes in Science from 1998. Lewin also appeared as an outspoken critic of the publication of the first cloned sheep Dolly a year earlier.
Unfortunately, Cell too has had to retract research publications due to fraud in 2004.

Any publication process has to compromise relevance, timeliness and thoroughness and I don't see a one size fits all approach to the problem - even if it leads to occasional publication of oversold or fabricated results.

[Update: In the Pipeline hast the story too, providing additional view points.]

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