Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Eggman

[caption: File photo of Dr. Schatten from the early 1980s, when he was an extra on the set of the Disney film, Tron.]

I've been backing off the story, since I have already said my peace and I'm trying to wait to see what else happens before making any further statements. Meanwhile, I am content for now to rely on other blogs and the news sites for the latest on the scandal. Every now and then I'll comment.

Like right now: Marmot's has a post about a Hankyoreh Shinmun story that Dr. Schatten, erstwhile colleague and collaborator of Dr. Hwang Woo-suk, is going to be sacked.

The Hanky might be jumping the gun, though. I didn't find anything at Google News or Yahoo News (are they clones?) on Schatten's alleged sacking, but I did find this article which includes this information:

That has now turned into a curse for the University of Pittsburgh researcher, whose questionable involvement with Hwang is not his first brush with scientific controversy.

At the very least, Schatten faces a formal reprimand once an internal school investigation is concluded.

“I will consider what disciplinary actions are appropriate in this case pending the findings,” said Dr. Arthur Levine, dean of the medical school and Schatten’s boss.
Well, coincidence of coincidence, it turns out that Dr. Schatten was involved in one of the scandals at my alma mater, the University of California at Irvine (UCI), that I mentioned here at Marmot's as an example of crooked scientific practices elsewhere. It also involved unethically obtained ova (UOOs, for those in the trade):
Ten years ago, a criminal investigation of a UC Irvine fertility clinic reached Schatten's lab at the University of Wisconsin.

The Irvine clinic was supplying Schatten with eggs that had been illegally obtained from women for research without their consent. One Irvine doctor was convicted and two others fled the country.

Schatten believed the Irvine eggs were legally and ethically obtained, said Wisconsin bioethics professor Alto Charo, who helped with the school’s investigation. Charo said the Irvine doctors gave Schatten fraudulent documents asserting the eggs were collected properly.

"Jerry Schatten was absolved of any wrongdoing," Charo said.
Wow! I was blown away when I saw that. It's deja-vu all over again. If Dr. Schatten (aka, the Eggman) were Korean, a bunch of people in the echo chamber known as the Korea-related blogosophere would be applying that "Koreans always got an excuse for everything" line. And Schatten got away clean, while others were thrown in jail or had to flee Korea, I mean, the United States.

Oh, wait a minute. Dr. Schatten is Korean... Dr. Hwang himself referred to Dr. Schatten as "my brother."

Anyway, while looking for that news, I found that Wired has an interesting article on one American's personal stake in Dr. Hwang's research:
Good luck, Hwang Woosuk.

This is all coming back to me now. I remember that scandal being a pretty messy affair (I think the Orange County Register won a
Pulitzer for it). By itself, it is nothing to target him with, but one can't help but see a pattern emerging with this guy.

In the 1995 criminal investigation, where one person is convicted and two fleed the country, Dr. Schatten:
(a) says he believed the eggs were legally and ethically obtained all along, and
(b) claimed it was the other guys who gave him fraudulent documents asserting the eggs were collected properly, and
(c) put his name on research (as the contact point, just like with Hwang) on
published research conducted with the other guy.
And in 2005 we have another case where Schatten:
(a) says he believed the eggs were legally and ethically obtained all along,
(b) claimed it was the other guys who gave him fraudulent documents asserting falsehoods about the eggs, and
(c) prominently placed his name on a research paper in a way that would make it appear that he had been involved in far more of the research than he actually was.
The two cases (right down to having his name on joint research with the unethical egg obtainer, Dr. Asch of UCI), are just too similar to dismiss out of hand any possibility of a pattern. If he's not more involved than you suggest, then he's either very, very unlucky, doesn't know how to judge others' character, or is just a lightning rod for shit happening.

Like I said, since this guy was already either involved with or burned by illegally and/or unethically obtained eggs, it seems odd that he would have been so nonchalant about this issue here and now.

I think, in all likelihood, Dr. Hwang is ultimately and primarily responsible for whatver mess comes out of this, that needs to be made clear. But Dr. Schatten is no babe in the woods. His involvement is probably deeper than just proofreading. He is
no small-time doc himself, so I find it difficult to believe he was all starry-eyed to the point of being rendered senseless about the chance to work with Hwang.

In the 1995 case, Dr. Asch of the UCI scandal fled to Mexico, and he's not talking, so all Dr. Schatten would have to do is plead that he was "duped" by the crafty Argentinian and the Chilean working with him, and he's off the hook. Lo and behold, something similar happens, why not go ahead with the same tried-and-true tactic?

That's just a theory.


  1. Hey, Why can't I see you on TV any more? LOL...I really enjoy your blog and I mean it:-)

  2. It does look like Spielberg, doesn't it?

  3. hastle, I am on reruns but also am doing radio and a lot of behind-the-scenes work, including documentaries.


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