The Ministry of Science and Technology yesterday said that leading international scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology has decided to retract from its Web site an article penned by National Chiao Tung University professor Steven Huang (黃國華) and his student Chen Yu-hsiun (陳昱勳) on DNA polymerase genome sequencing over doubts from international academic circles about the validity of the pair’s research.
Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Lin Yi-bing (林一平) said the ministry earlier this week received an e-mail from the journal’s staff about the decision.
He said that an ad hoc task force at the ministry probing the case deemed the research “highly likely to be forged” and has made a suggestion to the ministry’s academic ethics committee to punish Huang and Chen, asking that the pair’s right to apply for any further project overseen by the ministry be suspended for 10 years and five years respectively.
Screen grab from Nature Nanotechnology Web site
“Huang and Chen were unable to replicate the results of their project and failed to present the tools they claimed to use,” Lin said.
Arrangements are being made for the committee to convene, and the pulling of the pair’s article would greatly influence the verdict; however, it is still premature for any conclusions to be made, he said.
Huang and Chen last year submitted the writing on their research, which Huang claimed would greatly speed up the process of virus genome sequencing — from at least one day for every virus to one hour — thus significantly reducing the time and cost required for developing new vaccines and antivirals.
Huang said that his method was “more affordable, accurate and faster” compared with traditional means.
However, since the duo’s research was published by the journal in May last year, academics worldwide have called into question its methodology and legitimacy, saying that its results were “too perfect.”
“The data looks so good that others are wondering whether [the] researchers had help from God. If not, their paper would be worthy of Nobel Prizes from all branches of science. Strangely none of those critical breakthroughs are described in the paper,” said an unnamed contributor on online bioinformatics blog Homolog.us.
Other critics of the allegedly forged research include US scientist Stuart Lindsay, a professor of single molecule biophysics at Arizona State University, who questioned the “superconducting materials” the duo claimed to use to simulate the qualities of DNA polymerases — enzymes in human cells that are essential for DNA replication — saying: “None of us know of a superconducting material that works at the same temperature as a polymerase.”
Superconductors work at temperatures well below freezing, with even superconductors that operate at higher temperatures only beginning to react at about -135?C, while polymerases generally operate at about room temperature, he said.
Huang and Chen could not be reached for comment.
NINE NEW CASES: The CECC said two locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, and seven imported ones – five women and two men – brought the nation’s total to 348 People who refuse to wear a mask on public transportation after being asked to do so would face a NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 fine, effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday after announcing nine additional COVID-19 cases. In a move to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Tuesday announced that people must wear masks on trains and intercity buses, while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, on Tuesday said that people should wear them when they cannot maintain a social distance of 1.5m indoors. Chen yesterday
TRILLION PROPOSED: The premier said the goal was to keep ‘businesses solvent, the unemployment rate down, transportation and logistics going, and cash flowing’ The Executive Yuan yesterday announced an expanded economic stimulus package totaling NT$1.05 trillion (US$34.64 billion), including NT$81.6 billion in subsidies for employers to prevent a spike in unemployment. The increased budget comprises a special budget of NT$210 billion, up from the NT$60 billion already passed by the Legislative Yuan; NT$140 billion — up from NT$40 billion — to be appropriated from the general budget; and NT$700 billion in loans to industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) told a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. The NT$150 billion increase in the
The US National Security Council yesterday thanked Taiwan for its support amid the COVID-19 pandemic following President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) announcement that Taiwan would donate 10 million masks to hard-hit countries. The donation includes 2 million masks to the US on top of the weekly 100,000 announced previously; 7 million to Europe; and 1 million to diplomatic allies, on top of 1 million Taiwan procured for allies from their neighboring countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday. After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed appreciation for the donations, the US body yesterday wrote its thanks on Twitter. “We
TARGETED TEXTS: The center’s head said that visitor numbers at scenic spots were greater than expected and people did not do a very good job of social distancing The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday sent two warning text messages to urge people to practice social distancing, especially by avoiding crowded scenic areas. The two messages were sent at 11:55am on the third day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, reminding people about social distancing and hand hygiene to help prevent COVID-19 infection. “When visiting crowded scenic spots during the Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, please keep a social distance of at least 1.5m indoors and 1m outdoors, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. Please wear a mask and seek immediate medical attention if you are feeling ill