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Swedish Scientific Breakthrough On Planting Blooming Was Faked

Research into how plants bloom used fake data.
by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP) Apr 18, 2007
A major Swedish scientific breakthrough in plant physiology that was published in the journal Science in 2005 was based on false data, the research group at Umeaa University said Wednesday.

"A guest researcher from China who had been invited to join our team manipulated the data to get false results," professor Ove Nilsson from the Faculty of Science and Agriculture at Umeaa University told AFP.

The research studied one of the most important questions in plant physiology: How do plants know when to bloom?

The Chinese researcher, Tao Huang, claimed to have proven that the florigen molecule that controls plant blooming plays the role of messenger in the process.

Science Magazine named the study the third most important scientific breakthrough of 2005.

The fraud was unveiled in September 2006 when the research group unsuccessfully attempted to repeat the experiments conducted by Tao.

The study was published in Science in September 2005, but the group behind the research asked the US weekly to retract the article once they became aware of the tampering.

According to Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, the group informed the scientific community of the mistake and offered their apologies.

"This incident was extremely embarrassing for our university. These were the worst moments of my career as a researcher," Nilsson said.

Nilsson added that the Chinese researcher, who has now left the Swedish university, has refused to admit to the cheating and has maintained that the results were correct.

"Chinese researchers are under a lot of pressure from their country and are expected to produce a maximum amount of results in order to get a job," he emphasised.

In 2005 another Asian researcher, South Korean Hwang Woo-suk, made the headlines after he was found to have faked his research on human stemcell cloning.

His results were also published in Science, which later published a retraction.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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