Yoshiki Sasai suicide and the NHK

I did a post on the STAP cell scandal back in March when it was all about to break out (you can also see my comments in the same post for its development. In one of the last comments, I see I was sticking up for the woman at the centre of the storm Obokata Haruko, saying I feel sorry for her, just after her tearful appearance).

Since then, having followed what is said about her both in the Japanese establishment media(“let’s string her up”) the more public sentiment-reflecting media (morning shows, TV professors and chat-show hosts – “she’s just a poor girl, a victim”), as well as conducts of herself and her lawyers, I have changed my mind on this, and have withdrawn all my sympathy for her.

The latest news is, that her boss at work (RIKEN), Yoshiki Sasai has been found dead at the workplace, (hanging by the neck, with a suicide note), and of course the Japanese media is reporting it at full blast.

This is because, lately the NHK Japanese public broadcasting company has come under intense fire from the public, for hounding Obokata for an interview, (paparazzi style), during the tryst, Obokata supposedly falling and injuring her arm (which is “very important” for the work she is trying to re-create now under intense surveillance), as well as the NHK unearthing some email exchanges between Sasaki and Obokata, suggestive of some private relationship between the two.
The Japanese public has gone apeshit on the conduct of the conduct of the NHK, a supposedly *public broadcasting system* on the style of their reporting as well as the way they want to scapegoat somebody, namely a tearful girl who looks all innocent and weak.

I disagree with the Japanese public on this matter. It’s a damn shame that there are (not often and very far and few between) women scientists who do get somewhere by their own sweat and tears and not relying on the merits of their feminine guile, and to have it discredited by a big muddy splash by a substandard snivelling person in a job that they obviously did not deserve to have, make a big botch up job of it and have all the negative preconceptions strengthened. The Japanese public should expect the same standard of defence and retribution from Obokata as they would expect from any other scientist in that position and spotlight, and not say “it was the system’s fault, she’s just a poor lamb”.

The second point I brought up in my previous post concerns my misgivings about the biological science and reproducibility of a result, and the order of the publishing process in a journal. This requires a deeper discussion see a skew-related SLATE piece on this , but let me just say, out of all the Japanese ajossi(ossan) comedians and experts alike and comments on this whole saga, the one I liked the most was by Sanma (明石家さんま), he said he understood how Obokata felt, because he has been trying to get the right combination of “コー茶 Ko-cha” by mixing up Coffee(Kohi) and red tea(紅茶 koucha) and he did get it once by mistake, but has since been unable to reproduce it.

I thought it was a mild, sympathetic, yet funnily caustic enough comment on the whole matter.

  • A Korean

    I like this post and its topic, but your prose needs to tone down a bit. Gotta learn to crawl before you walk.

  • MericaRules

    This whole research scandal should wipe the smug smiles off of Japaneses’ faces.
    Now they can’t point fingers at the Koreans for having their own researcher faking his stem cell research.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    Science has become religion and religious fanatics (general public) want earth-shattering and God-defying result (myths). Scientists, as the grand wizards, do not need to reproduce the result – just claim the unbelievable and take the credit. Lie and lie again. People want to hear lies. They cheer men can do these feats – eternal youth, end of disease, perpetual motion, unbound energy. People do science to escape from God – they do not want God. Truth has departed. Lies and deception rule the day.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    I have the right to say this because I have MS in Chemistry and MS in computer science. And, I have worked in genetic lab while getting my MS. I know what “scientists” do.

  • RElgin

    Here you touch upon a sore point in America. There are so many that have no respect and understanding for scientific method and are so willing to defend their irrational belief systems to the detriment of science and society. I have yet to hear a good scientist talk of their work as being a substitute for religious belief. As you should know, science is not a matter of belief but of facts. If you had said “mathematicians” instead of “scientists”, that might make more sense since so much cutting edge math nowadays reminds me of mysticism or philosophy.

    Consider these few (out of many) articles, please, as a reminder of the sad state of thought in the US:

  • Sumo294

    The Big Bang.
    According to scientists–little protons were sexually attracted to neutrons and immediately populated the universe with a family of protons and neutrons. Their narrative reads like an epic romance novel.
    The universe is growing.
    Matter cannot be destroyed–only converted.
    When one atom became two atoms–the universe doubled in size.
    Our galaxy alone has almost one billion stars.