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Editor of journal apologizes to scientist

Publication's official voices regret for saying fertility expert Cha may have plagiarized.

June 09, 2007|William Heisel | Times Staff Writer

The editor of a prominent medical journal has apologized to a South Korean fertility scientist for statements the editor made to the Los Angeles Times during an authorship dispute.

Dr. Alan DeCherney, editor of Fertility and Sterility, wrote in a May 31 letter to Kwang-Yul Cha that he regretted telling The Times that Cha and his co-authors had potentially committed plagiarism by submitting an article for publication that had previously been published in South Korea.

"I consider my references to 'plagiarism' and 'perjury' to be inaccurate and regrettable," DeCherney wrote.

The episode came at a sensitive time for Cha, whose Los Angeles institute is in line to receive state funds for stem cell research. Cha's healthcare system owns hospitals, clinics and research labs in South Korea and L.A.

After The Times reported on the controversy in February, Cha's attorney threatened both DeCherney and the newspaper with defamation lawsuits.

Jeong-Hwan Kim, who worked in one of Cha's Korean hospitals, complained last summer to the journal that Cha and others had plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

Cha has said he originated the idea for the research that was the basis for the paper and was entitled to be named as first author.

Moreover, he has said he did not know that the article had been published in another journal.

A co-author, Sook-Hwan Lee, submitted the paper to Fertility and Sterility and has said none of the researchers but her knew the paper had been published previously.

Now DeCherney, who could not be reached for comment, is taking the blame for Kim's name being left off the article, writing that "two formal requests were made in 2006 ... asking that Dr. Kim be added to the article as an author and ... I did not respond to either of them."

Cha issued a statement through a spokesman: "I think Dr. DeCherney made the right and honorable decision to retract his inaccurate and damaging comments. His apology is accepted."

Kim said he was disappointed. "I don't know why the editor would apologize to him and not to me," he said. "This doesn't resolve the issue."

In April, the society that oversees Fertility and Sterility retracted the article, saying it violated rules against publication in more than one journal. Lee was barred from publishing in the journal for three years, but none of the other authors was punished.

In South Korea, Lee has been charged by prosecutors with violating Kim's intellectual property rights. She has maintained her innocence.

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william.heisel@latimes.com

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