However, it is not Hwang alone who has caused controversy in the world of stem cell research. Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core) said that Britain's Newcastle team had been reproached by the journal Nature, which complained that the "premature release of incomplete information, without any form of peer review and without making it clear to journalists that the work had not been refereed, is contrary to good scientific practice." Despite this, and as a result of the latest news from South Korea, it still appears that the British scientific community may be the only winner in this sorry affair. And it could put Britain ahead of the rest of the world, given the restrictions on cloning research in America, a country controlled by right-wing neo-conservatives and where President George W. Bush recently said: "I worry about a world in which cloning becomes accepted." The main competitor of Hwang's World Stem Cell Hub is the UK's Stem Cell Bank, a two-year-old government laboratory based near London. However, in stark contrast to the Korean venture whose opening this fall was launched amid much fanfair and international excitement, the British bank chooses to maintain a low profile and as a consequence is rarely in the news. The British bank has rigorous scientific and ethical guidelines that may give the appearance that it has been moving far too slowly compared to its Korean counterpart, which has been in perpetual fast forward. However, the Hwang affair in Korea seems to have proved the British bank's approach to have been spot on. Dr. Glyn Stacey, the British bank's director, declined to be interviewed about the scandal at the Korean laboratory. "He does not think it's appropriate in the media," a spokesman explained. In stark contrast, before the accusations of forged results, Hwang had been continuously debating the merits of his work in public news conferences and TV interviews as well as releasing comments defending his work that seem to have made the journal Science uneasy. "It would have been helpful if the authors spent as much time communicating with us as they have holding dueling press conferences," said Monica Bradford, the magazine's executive editor, referring to the fact that both Hwang and his main Korean rival had gone to the news media. So it remains to be seen if the British scientists can continue their research without being discredited by the Hwang affair. If that is the case, it appears that they will be leading the field of scientific endeavour. But it should be remembered that it is not just a case of following on from Hwang's techniques. The scientists are more or less starting from scratch. Alison Murdoch, who led the team at Newcastle's Fertility Centre that cloned the first human embryo in the West, said the search for stem cell therapies to cure conditions such as Parkinson's, diabetes and spinal cord injury had been seriously damaged. "We're back on the starting line. When Hwang's work was published, we assumed it was just a case of the rest of us learning how to do it. Now, we've still got to get to that first stage. Nobody wins in this, everybody loses," she said.
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Mr. Adam Dean serves as staff writer and photo journalist for The Seoul Times. He majored in fine arts valuation at Southampton Institute, UK, and worked as a communications and marketing specialist for a leading consultancy in London before he arrived in Seoul in July 2005. He has also traveled independently overland through Asia and the Middle East.
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