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Etmax
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Women in Science
Etmax   4/14/2014 10:30:27 PM
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It's possibly a sad reflection of the strong presence of chauvenism Japanese culture and also the incredibly deep sense of honour that I think is still prevalent. It can drive someone to "react" emotionally without the essential establishment of facts.

I think also the culture of always going home after your boss can put you in a state of mind where reality get cloudy. The Chines are famous (infamous) for their working conditions that have them have the highest suicide rate rate for production workers, and the Japanese I believe have it for students.

With all of that pressure and then being a woman in a male dominated society I guess things fall through the cracks.

It's also not a very well represented trait to stick your head up in the firing line and say "well I worked on that and I thought we were onto something"

And the popular press? Well they do anything for a story.

I hope her mistakes were just an unfortunate accumulation of slip ups and not the result of ill intent, and I'm personally happy to postpone my opinion until the facts surface.

I've worked with quite a few Japenese over the years and every one of them has had a very strong sense right, honour and ethic with a sprinkling of human frailties (yep, we're all human :-)) so I think it will end up being better than this initial portrail.

krisi
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CEO
Re: Obokata / Riken
krisi   4/14/2014 5:00:45 PM
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There is a tremendous pressure on young researchers to deliver novel research results...if you don't deliver you are out, unlikely a teacher, public servant or nurse...but you only have to work very hard first 5-6 years until you are granted the tenure...after that you can relax and almost stop working (some continue to work very hard but they like it not because they have to)...if you abolish the tenure system these problems will largely disappear in my opinion...Kris

junko.yoshida
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Re: Obokata / Riken
junko.yoshida   4/14/2014 4:03:28 PM
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Thanks for your comment, kris. It's interesting to find out that people in the West seem to be far more forgiving to Obokata. And I think you may be right. This is a far more universal problem than I would have originally thought.

krisi
User Rank
CEO
Re: Obokata / Riken
krisi   4/14/2014 1:23:27 PM
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You seem to be making harsh judgements Junko on Obokata...and somehow pick on Japan slopiness in research...my experience in academia is that this rather universal problem, not Obokata or Japan specific...simply publish or perish...Kris

junko.yoshida
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Blogger
Re: Obokata / Riken
junko.yoshida   4/14/2014 10:49:30 AM
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@EE-Joh, I, too, watched the entire press conference, monitored the opinions in the Japanese media and talked to people that I know, while I was in Japan last week.

The way Obokata was lynched during the news conference was quite shocking. But then, I again, it was unfortunate that her responses to some of the questions were less than satisfactory.

Principally, I am not impressed with the fact that Obokata, as a scientist, even spliced some images in the papers submitted. (Why would she ever do that...just to make the images look better?).

However, I am less impressed with Riken's apparent eagerness to move on (either out of shame or out of their greed to get its research institute upgraded by the government in a hurry.)  

 

EE-Joh
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Re: Obokata / Riken
EE-Joh   4/14/2014 3:36:11 AM
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To be fair, I'm sure Riken was also under a lot of pressure to act fast - to end the shame, under the glare of government officials, peers - Stem cell research is an area in which Japan excels and has made phenomenal breakthroughs - a source of national pride. 

It's all the more remarkable how Obokata found the courage to fight back - sitting almost alone at the press conference, given the social stigma attached to what she was being accused of, and the damage to reputation. 

And I agree that it was disappointing how she wasn't prepared on a few points and seemed to be unable to respond in detail on the question about the identity of the person / group she claimed had succeed in replicating the experiment.

I fear this will not end well, but hope it will, and I hope her supporter at Harvard doesn't have to abandon her. 




EE-Joh
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Rookie
Re: Obokata / Riken
EE-Joh   4/14/2014 3:00:23 AM
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You could be right. If so, I'm sorry about that. But I watched the press conferences and read the local news and saw the expressions on their faces, so I don't know. It's a look that's hard to hide.   

Of course shame doesn't have anything to do with whether or not mistakes happened, or whehter or not is was fraudulent. 

I'v obviously hurt your feelings, and touched a nerve, and am sorry about that. 

The planned upgrade, the institution's reputation in the view of the scientific community...  

I still think there's an element of shame in there... much the same as we see other issues are dealt with... 

Anyway, I'm sorry to have upset you. 

And you are probably right. I have pretenses as we all do to an extent, and I am nothing special, but I don't know... I was quite surprised by how quickly they rushed through the investigation, and I heard similar sentiments from others. Those Riken officials were quite upset, even humiliated as they would have been of course, and I would as well. Semantics about whether they were looking into the paper or the research aiside, they didn't exactly come caross sympathetically, and my money is still on shame as a central theme - but I dont' need to win the argument.   

I would have done better to express myself more thoughfully. 

boblespam
User Rank
CEO
Re: Obokata / Riken
boblespam   4/14/2014 2:50:41 AM
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All this kind of research is massively based on statistics. Statistics are so difficult to understand - even for educated people - that sometime end with this kind of scandals. Like for the "water memory" paper, also published in Nature which could'nt be reproduced.

It's funny to see that it's making so much noise in Japan as it happens also quite often in the USA. There are a lot of examples. The latest on I read this moring in "Le Monde" related to the scandal of those medecines tested successfully on mice, get a lot of money to test on humans to finally see that they don't work at all. With the same conclusion: biological science need to conducted with more statistical rigor.

AugustHayek
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Rookie
Re: Obokata / Riken
AugustHayek   4/14/2014 2:30:03 AM
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This is a terrible comment.

Firstly, shame has nothing to do with this. If anything, the RIKEN's harsh reaction was because of their planned upgrade to higher government institution.

The general public does not have more a favorable impression, nor the entire Japanese science community.

Secondly, the scope of the RIKEN's investigation was on the preparation of the paper itself, and it clearly stated that the existence of STAP is not covered. Thus in pure scientific sense, some aspects of the report are fabrication, but the STAP phenomenon may not be. They can both be true.

Thirdly, this has nothing to do with Japan's history issue with China or Korea. Obviously, this person has never studied Asian history in university, and commented on this just by reading some Wikipedia or newspaper. This alone tells that this person is talking about something he does not know.

Before talking about somebody else's pretense, it is advised to worry about yours first.

AugustHayek
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Rookie
Re: Obokata / Riken
AugustHayek   4/14/2014 2:30:02 AM
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This is a terrible comment.

Firstly, shame has nothing to do with this. If anything, the RIKEN's harsh reaction was because of their planned upgrade to higher government institution.

The general public does not have more a favorable impression, nor the entire Japanese science community.

Secondly, the scope of the RIKEN's investigation was on the preparation of the paper itself, and it clearly stated that the existence of STAP is not covered. Thus in pure scientific sense, some aspects of the report are fabrication, but the STAP phenomenon may not be. They can both be true.

Thirdly, this has nothing to do with Japan's history issue with China or Korea. Obviously, this person has never studied Asian history in university, and commented on this just by reading some Wikipedia or newspaper. This alone tells that this person is talking about something he does not know.

Before talking about somebody else's pretense, it is advised to worry about yours first.

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