Science fiction

Science fiction

Cytotherapy (2006) Vol. 8, No. 2, 91 EDITORIAL Science fiction It is a sad fact that spectacular discoveries and advances in science are never far re...

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Cytotherapy (2006) Vol. 8, No. 2, 91


Science fiction It is a sad fact that spectacular discoveries and advances in science are never far removed from equally remarkable but ultimately fraudulent claims. The field of stem cell research is the latest victim, but the scientific fraud of human therapeutic cloning in South Korea is mainly remarkable for the extent of its fabrication, and is only the latest in a regular series of falsifications in the medical sciences. Journal editors feel these events keenly because they are at the center of the process of validation of scientific work. It is particularly the high-profile journals that are at risk, because rarely would any fraudster worth their salt make claims that are not worthy of the attention of Nature or Science . Hallmarks of major mistruths in medical science are their boldness, and their claims to successful outcome, all achieved with sophisticated, and not-immediately reproducible, technical skill. The inventiveness of scientific fraudsters is prodigious, sometimes involving entirely fabricated patient databases, or completely invented experimental results including fabricated photographs. The perpetrators range from individuals starting their career to those in well-established positions. But the motives are similar: self-advancement, securing money for self or research, and securing career positions. In these times, when it is difficult to make scientific advances without collaboration and teamwork, it is remarkable that so many co-workers and co-authors become unwitting parties to the fraud. But the reason is obvious: the natural desire to be part of a successful operation, producing spectacular publications in the best peer-reviewed journals, can dim critical thinking. The prestigious journals are also part of the same mindset, saving their pages for the most outstandingly successful positive results. It is reassuring, therefore, that there are limitations to the false leads created by the publication of untruths. The most important reality check is the uniform need to validate published results by other laboratories and groups.

– 2006 ISCT

These days, the pace of research means that false work tends to be identified rapidly, especially if the claims are of great importance. Thus, in practice, the most damaging fallout is the waste of time and resources by investigators trying to reproduce the results and concluding, only after months or years of fruitless effort, that the defect lies not in their own expertise and technology but in the original observation. So how can journals like Cytotherapy protect themselves from becoming the unwitting vehicles of fraudulent science? Certainly not by having a low citation index and maintaining a restricted field of interest, because our journal profile is rising fast and we receive papers from all over the world from a widening list of institutes and individuals. We are host to papers that reflect an explosion of diverse therapeutic applications of novel and partially defined cell types, including stem cells, some obtained by non-traditional methods. One important protection is that we are linked to the International Society for Cellular Therapy, a society that has a strong philosophy of validating techniques, collaboration and an awareness of the rigor of product regulation. Cytotherapy is proud to be at the forefront of publishing data reflecting practical approaches to the increasingly exciting field of stem cell and tissue cell research as it pertains to treatment, but we will publish both positive and negative data as long as they can be instructional to others in the field. We are highly dependent on the vigilance of our reviewers and we encourage and are grateful for their independence and critical evaluation of submissions. We are constantly expanding our reviewer list to reflect the diversity of cell systems we now cover, and our peer-review process becomes increasingly informed and rigorous as we expand. So be assured that Cytotherapy is awake to the risk of scientific fraud and plays its part in protecting us all from false leads. There are no plans for a ‘fiction’ section in our table of contents.

DOI: 10.1080/14653240600619988