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China punishes those engaged in misconduct

Daniel BuenoAs a sign that it intends to make an effort to contain the increase in the number of domestic cases of scientific misconduct, the Chinese government has released details on six recent episodes and the sanctions against those involved. According to the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the government research-sponsorship agency, the fraud committed by the researchers involved plagiarism, appropriation of the results of other studies and research proposals, submitting erroneous personal information, tampering with empirical data, or hiring ghost writers to write articles. Those involved were punished with indefinite suspension from the right to receive research grants and funds for research projects.

Between 2010 and June 2013, the NSFC received 468 complaints and accusations of fraud and identified more than 80 cases of research misconduct. With the Chinese government’s increasing sponsorship of science and technology, a growing number of researchers has submitted false documents when requesting grants. “Research misconduct is exposing the negative side of science and technology development,” said Yang Wei, NSFC director, to China Radio International.

According to a survey carried out in 2009 by the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, of the 30,078 researchers linked to research institutes, universities and hospitals across the country surveyed, nearly half said they believe academic fraud is “very common.” According to Yang Wei, this is a consequence of the lack of a detailed definition of misconduct in the country’s science policy. In September 2012, the government made an attempt to establish a standard of scientific integrity by issuing a series of guidelines proposing changes in the science, technology and innovation system in order to expand the public’s right to monitor research activities, create new legislation and apply stricter punishments. That same year, the Ministry of Education defined seven types of misconduct punishable at universities, such as plagiarism, falsification of scientific data, and altering of CVs, in response to scandals such as the one which led to the dismissal of two professors at Zhenjiang University—He Haibo and Li Lianda— who copied data from other researchers in scientific publications.  “China still needs laws and regulations to prevent and punish misconduct in science, as well as standards to identify fraud,” said Yang Wei.