Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

January 11, 2007

Ex-Schatten post doc sanctioned by HHS

A former postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Gerald P. Schatten at Magee Womens Research Institute (MWRI) has been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for falsifying rhesus monkey stem cell research intended for publication in the journal Nature.

An oversight review by the U.S. Public Health Service’s Office of Research Integrity found that Jong Hyuk Park engaged in research misconduct in Schatten’s lab while conducting research funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Park has been banned from working on or applying for federally funded research grants and prohibited from serving in any advisory capacity to the U.S. Public Health Service for a period of three years.

Park was a postdoctoral fellow at Pitt from August 2004 to February 2006, according to an MWRI statement. Prior to his work with Schatten in Pittsburgh, Park was a member of the research team of Woo Suk Hwang, whose stem cell research at Seoul National University has been discredited as fraudulent.

Park was listed as a co-author of papers published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005 that later were retracted when it was found they had been based on bogus research.

Schatten, a Pitt professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and member of MWRI who collaborated with Hwang on one paper based on the fabricated data, was found guilty of “research misbehavior” by a Pitt investigative panel in February 2006. (See Feb. 16, 2006 University Times.)

Another former research associate in Schatten’s lab was among six scientists indicted in May 2006 by South Korean prosecutors investigating Hwang’s discredited research. Kim Sun-jong was a research associate at MWRI from September to December 2005 and previously had worked at Mizmedi Hospital in Korea, where he was accused of fabricating research data to support Hwang’s claims of having created the first cloned human embryonic stem cell lines. (See May 25, 2006 University Times.)

MWRI spokeswoman Lisa Rossi said Schatten in January 2006 alerted Pitt’s research integrity officer to Park’s possible misconduct in the preparation of his draft manuscript.

According to a prepared MWRI release, the ensuing investigation, conducted between Jan. 19 and April 26, 2006, “determined that Dr. Park had committed research misconduct by misrepresenting to the [Pitt] panel the contents of a figure included in a draft manuscript, of which he was first author, as being accurate and truthful, when, in fact, some of the photographic images contained in that figure were not truthfully represented. … [The federal Office of Research Integrity] determined that by falsifying figures circulated to his laboratory colleagues, attempting to destroy evidence and making false statements to the University Research Integrity Panel, he committed acts that constituted research misconduct.”

The federal review, the results of which were published this week in the Federal Register, stated that Park “intentionally and knowingly falsified various versions of two figures in a manuscript entitled ‘Rhesus Embryonic Stem Cells Established by Nuclear Transfer: Tetraploid ESCs Differ From Fertilized Ones’ that was being prepared for submission to Nature” and that he “repeatedly misrepresented” to Pitt investigators the accuracy of one of the figures. The HHS review also found Park represented the false figures as true to laboratory colleagues and altered computer records in order to cover his misconduct.

John Dahlberg, director of the HHS Office of Research Integrity Division of Investigative Oversight, said “Dr. Park was actually reasonably successful in his research with significant accomplishments with respect to the rhesus monkey project he was working on.”

Dahlberg said perceived pressure to prepare the paper for publication, perhaps self-imposed, may have been a factor in Park’s actions.

HHS expert and deputy director of the Division of Investigative Oversight Nancy Davidian, who headed the review of the Pitt investigation, said the misconduct was in Park’s characterization of the cell lines. “No one has doubted that those cell lines were derived,” she said, adding that the false data was not published nor was it used in seeking additional federal grants.

According to NIH statistics, a combined total of more than $1.2 million in fiscal 2004 and more than $4.5 million in fiscal 2005 from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development helped fund the projects in which Park participated.

Dahlberg said his office’s review was directed at Park individually and said that while his office’s interest is in protecting Public Health Service funds, the finding would not affect the federal funding for the projects in which Park participated.

Rossi said the stem cell research is being redone. “It requires repeating several studies to prove the existence of several stem cell lines,” she said. She could not estimate the cost or length of time required to repeat the work.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 9

Leave a Reply