Korean plagiarism case ongoing

Journal has yet to take action on allegedly plagiarized paper, and an author accuses a Korean investigating committee of bias

By | April 26, 2007

Fertility and Sterility has not yet made a decision on how to handle a 2005 paper a Korean scientist alleges was plagiarized from his research published in a Korean journal, despite meeting to discuss the issue nearly two weeks ago. The Korean scientist and author of the original paper, Jeong-Hwan Kim, also says he is concerned that a Korean committee established to investigate the funding source for the Korean and F&S papers will be biased, since many committee members are based at a university headed by the first author of the F&S paper. The committee is investigating whether scientists used government grants, because while both the Korean and the F&S papers state that the projects were supported by government funds, Kim says he did not use any government funding. In a list of committee members Kim forwarded to The Scientist, half have appointments at Pochon CHA University, where Kwang-Yul Cha, first author on the F&S paper, is chancellor. Tony Knight, spokesperson for Cha, told The Scientist Cha is not a member of the committee, and therefore "can't speak for it." Committee member Dong-Ryul Lee, who is based at Ponchon CHA University, explained the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare requires that the organization involved in the research investigate any allegations. "But to ensure a fair process, the Ministry requires that the committee be made up of four individuals from Pochon CHA University and four individuals who are not related at all to our university. Even the Ministry feels this is a fair and valid process." Lee added that the committee emailed the list of members to Kim, for his approval. "If Dr. J. Kim notified us that he wants to change the committee members with reasonable issue, the committee would make changes to the members without a problem as we are required to do by the [Korean] Ministry's policy," Lee said in an Email to The Scientist. "We are currently waiting for the acceptance or reply from him." "I do not have any relationship with the Pochon CHA University and Dr Cha. Because of this reason, the committee asked me to participate in the investigation," committee member Sung-Han Shim of the College of Medicine at Hanyang University in Seoul told The Scientist in an Email. "The case is under investigation and the results will be sent to the [Korean government] officially in [the] next couple of weeks." Kim said he contacted the Korean government last week to appeal the list of committee members, and Emailed the committee about his appeal. He told The Scientist he wants to limit his communication with the committee out of concern his correspondence could be used in a pending court case against a co-author on both the Korean and F&S papers. "I have no obligation to say OK until I agree to the [committee] formation. It is my right given by the government," Kim said. Earlier this month, F&S editor-in-chief Alan DeCherney told The Scientist the publications committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which publishes F&S, would "make a decision on this matter" when they met on April 13. However, nearly two weeks later, ASRM spokesperson Sean Tipton declined to disclose the contents of the meeting to The Scientist. "We are investigating. When our investigation is complete we will make an announcement," he said in an Email. DeCherney did not respond to a request for comment. In February, DeCherney said that the editorial board of the Korean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which published Kim's work, told F&S they had reviewed the evidence and confirmed that Kim had played a significant enough role to designate him as the first author of the F&S paper, which is essentially identical to the Korean paper. As a result, DeCherney said the journal planned to update its database and national databases such as MEDLINE, adding Kim's name as the first author of the F&S study. Kim is listed as the first author of the Korean paper, but is not included as an author on the F&S article. DeCherney also said in February that F&S was going to issue a note in an upcoming issue describing the transgression, and bar every author listed on the original F&S paper from contributing papers to the journal for three years. However, as of Tuesday (April 24), both the F&S Web site and PubMed still list Kwang-Yul Cha as the first author of the paper. And on March 10, the journal published online another article that lists Cha as the last author. The 2005 paper describes the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to measure mitochondrial DNA in women with premature ovarian failure. Kim called F&S's lack of action "disappointing," and said he has contacted the journal for an explanation but has not heard a response. "I feel powerless re FS," he wrote in an Email to The Scientist. In a comment posted in response to The Scientist's coverage of the case, Kwang-Soo Kim, director of the molecular neurobiology laboratory at McLean Hospital and a newly-appointed professor at Ponchon, said the case raised the issue of dual publication. According to the Los Angeles Times, the paper has received a letter from an attorney representing Cha threatening to sue for defamation, following its coverage of the issue. Alison McCook mail@the-scientist.com Links within this article: KY Cha et al, "Quantification of mitochondrial DNA using real-time polymerase chain reaction in patients with premature ovarian failure," Fertility and Sterility, December 2005. http://www.the-scientist.com/pubmed/16359970 A. McCook, "New details in Korean plagiarism case," The Scientist, April 10, 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53061 CHA Health Systems http://eng.chabio.com/aboutus/product.asp Sitrick and Company http://www.sitrick.com/home.html A McCook, "Fertility journal censures scientists," The Scientist, February 20, 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/52859 TK Yoon et al, "Survival rate of human oocytes and pregnancy outcome after vitrification using slush nitrogen in assisted reproductive technologies," Fertility and Sterility, March 10, 2007. http://www.fertstert.org/article/PIIS0015028207000945/abstract Kim comment [scroll down] http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53061/#comments Kwang-Soo Kim http://www.mclean.harvard.edu/about/bios/detail.php?username=kskim W. Heisel, "Plagiarism dispute has high stakes," Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2007. http://www.latimes.com/

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