A U.S. scientist collaborating on now-discredited South Korean embryo and stem cell cloning research accepted questionable payments for his work on the project and engaged in "scientific misbehavior," according to a University of Pittsburgh review panel's report.
Dr. Gerald P. Schatten, a reproductive and developmental scientist at the university's Magee Women's Research Institute, collected $40,000 in honoraria from Hwang Woo Suk, the disgraced South Korean scientist accused of fabricating cloning experiments.
The payments included a $10,000 cash gift in 2005 when Schatten attended Hwang's international news conference to announce results of their research.
Schatten also was cited for soliciting a $200,000 annual grant for the Pittsburgh research lab from Hwang. A university official said the funds never materialized.
The six-member review panel stopped short of citing Schatten for "scientific misconduct," a more serious finding, and recommended the university take corrective or disciplinary action. No specific sanction was disclosed.
Records show that the discredited cloning study listed Hwang and Schatten as co-authors and contacts when it was submitted to Science magazine for publication. It appeared in June 2005 and was retracted last month.
According to the review panel report, released yesterday, Schatten ignored warning signs that the research was being fabricated. He also gave the committee conflicting testimony about his role in the cloning project, the panel said.
His explanations, the panel said, "cannot be used as an excuse for his lack of oversight and critical judgment."
Schatten did not respond to a request for comment.
The panel reported that falsifications might have been uncovered earlier had more experts reviewed the research project. However, they found that although Schatten signed a letter certifying that all 25 authors of the study had reviewed and approved it in advance, many had not.
"Dr. Schatten must assume responsibility for including this false statement," the report said.
In the June magazine article, the two scientists claimed to have discovered a method to clone human embryos and produce stem cells. Scientists believe such a development could lead to revolutionary advancements in treatment and prevention of human ailments.
Schatten, the panel stated, "obviously had high expectations of the impact the paper would have. ... He was not averse to accepting honoraria totaling $40,000 within a 15-month period from Dr. Hwang ... amounts that seem to us as far above the normal honoraria for consulting."
The panel noted that Schatten joined with some of his colleagues to recommend Hwang for a Nobel Prize.