8 thoughts on “Social Media Helps Field Deal With Stressful STAP Stem Cell Situation”

  1. One of my problem with Nature coverage that I didn’t mention before is unwillingness to share detail of their STAP survey. I understand that results are 10/10 negative, but it will be very scientific to post a method: who was surveyed (name of PI, lab, institution), via phone or email, how many attempts were performed, with what type of cells and so on. It how should be done, instead of saying in one sentence: “we did a survey, 10/10 negative….”. The answer why it’s negative could be in details. This is a science. After all that Nature claimed to be “the best of scientific journalism”? It’s the same “old academic school” – rigid and dogmatic.

  2. On Jan. 29 of this year the Boston Globe said:
    A team of Boston and Japanese researchers stunned the scientific world Wednesday by revealing a remarkably simple and unexpected way to create stem cells that can become any of the diverse cell types in the body.
    “It’s just a wonderful result; it’s almost like alchemy,” Douglas Melton, who is codirector of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and was not involved in the research, said of the two mouse studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature. “It says one has found a way to reveal the hidden potential of cells with a relatively straightforward method.”

    Not surprisingly, this is the same kind of hype as we had at that time in the Japanese media. When we talk about the airing this paper has received in social media, we should reflect on the fact that the commercial news media have simply repackaged the hype fed to them by Harvard and Riken, and failed completely to do any independent reporting until quite late in the game. They probably would still not be reporting any of the doubts had it not been for social media breaking the story.

  3. A newspaper story in Japanese yesterday said that Dr. Obokata had succeeded in reproducing her own results. This story quotes an anonymous Riken spokesperson as saying that while third party replication was still required the replication by Dr. Obokata herself was a significant step towards the validation of the results in the Nature paper.

    This strikes me as problematical for two reasons.
    (1) If Riken makes positive announcements like this while their internal investigation is ongoing it tends to cast doubts on the seriousness of their investigation. Perhaps they would be better advised to refrain from any comments until they have announced the results of their investigation.
    (2) In a case like this it would be significant if an investigator with a high international reputation independently confirmed the results of the Obokata et al. paper, but the significance of a statement by the author herself is not necessarily high in this kind of a case.

  4. Paul, Amy, Robert,
    I think this was a successful experiment – a lab meeting without borders. Imagine that a STAP researcher was reporting her results at a lab meeting – you and the hundreds of others in your worldwide lab would be obligated to give critical feedback. The authors shouldn’t feel any more personally attacked than they would if their colleagues in the meeting were criticizing their work. This should be familiar to everyone who works in a lab.

    1. precisely,

      any good scientist (budding or mature) will understand the USEFULNESS of criticism (in any form), and hopefully will invest any generated-energy into their work to improve.

      any author who publishes in nature should expect their email inbox to be flooded and their doors to be kicked down if there isn’t a consensus on the reproducibility prior to publication.

  5. I like the idea of crowd sourcing and sharing data on controversial findings. This way if it is just complex then a pattern for successful replication will emerge for all to benefit from. If there is something that makes the finding happen infrequently with enough replication this would show too. If it is not replicable then either the methods or the data is not up to standard. To be useful for commercial or health purposes consistent use of what works is important.

    Having survived social media attacks I am still in favor of crowd sourcing and social media because I have witnessed and endured personal attacks based on false assumptions. A lot of nastiness could be avoided by just putting replicable methods out there and separating fact from fiction.

    Essentially they are being sold the equivalent of Race for the Cure and they are investing with their lives. I think it is a delusion to expect that after they run a few races they will care what an expert with no solutions thinks,

    Do stem cell vitamins work… let’s stop arguing, citing theoretical frameworks in big words, whining about COI and put the methods out there for others to test.

    There is a lot of telling the public and patients what doesn’t work or what does but no showing them the truth by testing the controversy. Those in the field have everyday results to refer to and balance between hope and hype. Here the results could be videoed so they see what you see. We all learn more about cells ,how answers are searched for and what this looks like going in a paper. I think this is a great trend.

  6. Even now, one suspects that Riken and Nature have no great enthusiasm for investigating this matter (It’s really absurd that Japan has no third-party independent agency for making such investigations) but at the end of the day they either have to address all of the points of doubt raised on social media or else be adjudged to have committed a cover-up, This would, as you say in the main post, have been completely different in the old days.

    Another point is that the social media have facilitated interaction between people in Japan who mostly post in the Japanese language and people overseas.

    Let’s see what happens from now on.

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