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just a poor girl, a victim”), as well as conducts of herself and her lawyers, I have changed my mind on this, and have withdrawn all my sympathy for her.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.