Time to ac­cept aca­demic in­ves­ti­ga­tion of achieve­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEW -

Han Chunyu, a bi­ol­o­gist at He­bei Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy in Shi­ji­azhuang, He­bei prov­ince, pub­lished a pa­per in the pres­ti­gious science jour­nal Na­ture, in which he claimed to have made a break­through with NgAgo gene-edit­ing tech­nolo­gies. How­ever, other sci­en­tists, both at home and over­seas, said they have failed to re­peat the re­sults of his ex­per­i­ments, and 13 sci­en­tists have now called for an aca­demic in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be launched into his re­search and forHan to share his orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als and data. China Daily shares two views on the con­tro­versy.

Only re­peat­able ex­per­i­ments will be ac­cepted by other sci­en­tists. If one sci­en­tist claims to have made a dis­cov­ery but oth­ers can­not re­peat it, then that dis­cov­ery will not be ac­cepted.

When a sci­en­tist achieves a re­sult that can­not be re­peated, there are two pos­si­bil­i­ties, ei­ther mis­takes were made in the ex­per­i­ment or the data has been in­ten­tion­ally fal­si­fied. In the first in­stance it’s an er­ror and in the sec­ond a mis­deed, both are un­ac­cept­able. The 13 re­searchers have asked for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion mainly be­cause they want to find out if ei­ther is true in Han’s case.

When for­eign and do­mes­tic sci­en­tists say they can­not re­peat the re­sults of his ex­per­i­ments that means he must pro­vide ev­i­dence to an­swer the chal­lenge, or his “achieve­ment” won’t be rec­og­nized.

Of course, such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be fair and fol­low

After the 13 sci­en­tists co-signed a let­ter call­ing for in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Han and his ex­per­i­ments, the lat­ter was quoted as re­spond­ing: “I won’t ac­cept such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Why should I provemy own in­no­cence?”

It seems Han is rather sen­si­tive to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion mis­tak­enly as­sum­ing it would sig­nal he was guilty of some wrong­do­ing. strict pro­ce­dures. In the United States, Den­mark and Fin­land, it is a govern­ment de­part­ment that does the job, while in Ger­many, Ja­pan and France, it is renowned foun­da­tions that in­ves­ti­gate.

Han should pro­vide the true ma­te­ri­als and orig­i­nal data he used in his ex­per­i­ments, but he has the right to de­fend him­self, too.

Zhang Tiankan, vice-chief ed­i­tor of En­cy­clo­pe­dia mag­a­zine and a for­mer med­i­cal re­searcher

But even if an in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cludes that Han’s achieve­ment does not stand that does not nec­es­sar­ily mean there has been any mal­prac­tice by Han. He might have made an un­in­ten­tional mis­take in his ex­per­i­ments, or achieved an ac­ci­den­tal re­sult some­how.

If Han has care­fully read the re­ports of the 13 sci­en­tists who call for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he should know that they do not in­clude any prej­u­dice against him and no one suspects him of in­ten­tion­ally fal­si­fy­ing data. Peo­ple are just anx­ious to know whether his ex­per­i­ment is re­peat­able or not.

Es­pe­cially, most of the sci­en­tists try­ing to re­peat Han’s ex­per­i­ment are us­ing pub­lic money to do so. Their at­tempts at em­u­lat­ing the re­sults of his ex­per­i­ments have al­ready con­sumed lots of money.

We hope Han will ac­cept the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as the op­por­tu­nity to show he has noth­ing to hide. If he tries to re­sist the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, then that will lead to doubts about his trust­wor­thi­ness.

Zhang Zhoux­i­ang, a writer with China Daily


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