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China's Research Ambitions Hurt By Faked Results 338

Posted by kdawson
from the science-fiction dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "AP reports that plagiarizing or faking results is so rampant in Chinese academia that some experts worry it could hinder China's efforts to become a leader in science. China's state-run media recently rejoiced over reports that China publishes more papers in international journals than any other country except the US; but not all the research stands up to scrutiny. In December, a British journal retracted 70 papers from a Chinese university, all by the same two lead scientists, saying the work had been fabricated, and expressing amazement that a fake crystal structure would be submitted for publication. 'Academic fraud, misconduct and ethical violations are very common in China,' said professor Rao Yi, dean of the life sciences school at Peking University. 'It is a big problem.' Last month the Education Ministry released guidelines for forming a 35-member watchdog committee and has asked universities to get tough but Rao remains skeptical. Government ministries are happy to fund research but not to police it, Rao says. 'The authorities don't want to be the bad guy.'"
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China's Research Ambitions Hurt By Faked Results

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:46AM (#31893052)

    The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational. Compound this with a manipulative media, and what you get are fat, happy citizens who are staunchly nationalistic and xenophobic. All they care about is money.

    If you want some positive moderation, reply to the above true statement about the Chinese changing only the nationality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      I get lots of fabricated resumes at work from china and other developing countries as well. they will lie cheat and steal to get their way - china has truely embraced western culture.
      • by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:02AM (#31893124)

        they will lie cheat and steal to get their way - china has truely embraced western culture.

        Except that Western culture has watchdogs like the SEC that will bring massive fraud lawsuits against you when you try to cheat and steal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by timmarhy (659436)
          what the fuck is SEC going to do about fake science papers?
          • by dAzED1 (33635) <brianlamere AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:09AM (#31893164) Homepage Journal

            fake science papers are vetted - peer review here is intense.

            • by mojo-raisin (223411) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:57AM (#31893366)

              Peer review may be intense, but I find that flaws in research are often ignored.

              As my prof said to me the other day: "I could sell this no problem," in reference to my MS thesis work. I have been hoping to do more supportive research, but in the "publish, publish, publish" world, it has been deemed more prudent to move on to other work.

              As the Prof said, there are two possibilities if I attempt the background(controls). (1) They work, in which case I've bought nothing (her words). or (2) The controls don't work in which case everything is garbage. The Prof would rather remain ignorant if that is the case... wow.

              What honesty we have here in Academia USA!

              A few sentences later, the sage Prof said, "It's not unethical."

              I thought I was getting a MS degree to learn and do science well. Instead, it's become drudgery.

              • by Hatman39 (1759474) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:21AM (#31893464)
                Well, evidently you have never published, or if you have, you have never run a larger (multi-pub) project. In this case, you'd publish and then proceed to do the background checks. If the background checks fail, you can publish those as well. If your original research turns out fine, you tack on some additional (original) research and publish that. Also, given that it worked in a single case, you are evidently on to something. Ergo, checking again is, at this point, a waste of time. You share your findings with the world, and then have other people run with it as well. More on-topic: I have seen a lot of Chinese, and more generally Asian, papers in my field... but not one of them is original. Also, doubtful results do pass by from time to time (although verifying this is hard, when it comes to sattelite observations there's no doing it twice). It seems that Chinese scholars (based on the ones I know and the research I see) are more concerned with quantity, as it improves your scholarly standing very directly, than with quality. So reproducing research (in my field: doing data assimilation on soil moisture for the umphteenth time) is a quick and easy way to get this.
              • Out of sheer curiosity, what school are you attending? Behavior like that would result in a pretty amusing, and probably very public, outcome at a school like GA Tech.
                • I won't be saying the school name here ;)

                  One does not throw around these accusations, and the wagons would be circled rather quickly.

                  My project is rather tangential to the work the rest of the lab does. I will be the only who ever does the work in the lab, and no one else will ever follow up on it.

                  I've never been part of a multi-pub project, that is true, but that is not the point here.

                  Back to the the topic of the post - I have heard of other labs (postdoc mills) also conducting shady research. My point, is

                  • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                    by Hatman39 (1759474)
                    Of course, every market has its issues. This is true for industry as it is for science. No one in science denies this, but I think some people outside of science have a slightly too romantic view of it.
                    As for the multi-pub thing: The case is isn't that if you have some severly deficient research you should just publish it, more that you
                    1) Shouldn't see your paper as the last one (either by your lab, or by others)
                    2) Shouldn't try to cover ever inch of the matter.

                    As you state:

                    My project is rather tangential to the work the rest of the lab does. I will be the only who ever does the work in the lab, and no one else will ever follow up on it.

                    And in the light of this

              • by CptPicard (680154) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:23AM (#31894090)

                It kind of depends. It's "just" a Master's thesis, which means that you need to be able to put together something credible in the sense that you can formulate a larger academic work with an argument, sources and perhaps something of your own to back your thesis up.

                At least over here in Finland, the point is not to really produce original research. That's for Ph.D.'s. For Master's you want to show you understand your subject matter and aren't just wantonly making shit up. In this sense I can understand your professor wanting to just get your degree and move on... if you're going to do actual publication in a journal, write a PhD thesis or something, the criteria are different.

                But that's just "over here".

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by rhsanborn (773855)
                  At least in my program, our professors want us to publish a couple papers as a result of our thesis. It doesn't have to be ground breaking, and is usually in parallel with some of their research, but they would like it to be original.
            • ...the real fact-checking comes with other scientists try to duplicate the results. After all, Ross McKitrick's infamous degrees-for-radians paper slipped through the peer review process and was not caught until someone tried to duplicate his results and got the exact opposite conclusion.
          • well, I think we just stretched this into ethical standards as a whole.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by hedwards (940851)
            Actually, if the fake papers are being put out by publicly traded companies then they could very well do quite a bit. The SEC has a pretty broad area of jurisdiction when it comes to companies pumping out false information to bump their stock price. But I know that's not really what you were thinking about, in general the SEC wouldn't have any authority at all.
        • by JumpDrive (1437895) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:15AM (#31893194)
          Yeah, that Madoff thing , they were right on top of it.
          • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:10AM (#31893408)

            At least they went after Madoff after the fact.

            In China, he wouldn't have been caught during the act, or prosecuted afterwords. If he had been caught, he would have just split a portion of the profits with their government.

            • by ppanon (16583) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:32AM (#31893498) Homepage Journal
              Heh, what do you think happened with Madoff for 20 years? The only reason he got caught is that the economic downturn caused enough people to need to pull some of their money out of the Ponzi scheme that it collapsed when the piggy bank was emptied.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by timeOday (582209)

                Heh, what do you think happened with Madoff for 20 years?

                Well, what do you think happened? I think he hoodwinked everybody including regulators with his reputation and (in the case of his shareholders) consistently high returns dissuading them from asking questions.

                But the point remains, once the (rather negligent) regulators realized what was happening, he was prosecuted.

                Regulation in general is tough. The incentives for good regulation will NEVER be 10% as good as the incentives given to those who

            • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday April 19, 2010 @04:51AM (#31893736)

              In China he would most likely have gotten a trial of 2-3 days behind doors followed by an execution within a few weeks after that.

              Someone like Madoff would have been in too big a hole, and have pissed off too many people, to be able to buy his way out.

              These days I regularly read in the Hong Kong newspapers about high-flying politicians and businesspeople being sentenced to long jail terms or indeed to death for corruption and other financial crimes such as pyramid schemes. The central government is serious when it comes to fighting corruption however it is really really hard as the lower echelons are so thoroughly corrupt. As a rule of thumb the higher up in the government the less corruption you find (though when it takes place the amounts of money involved become mind blowing).

              • by hey! (33014) on Monday April 19, 2010 @09:12AM (#31894860) Homepage Journal

                Serious about fighting corruption?

                There's only one "serious" way of fighting corruption in my book: shining the light of openness on the places where corruption festers.

                The exaggerated sentences are a sure sign that the regime *isn't* serious about fighting corruption. They go through the motions of "making an example" of the current offender, yet inevitably he'll have no shortage of successors.

                So if the strategy doesn't work to reduce corruption, why do they keep doing it? Because it does something very useful to them. It makes the issue one of *personalities*. It's not the system that's broken, it's this apparently endless supply of bad apples. You make a show of punishing a bad apple, and that convinces the people that the higher-ups are honest men. If those men control the media, the police and the courts, how could they fail to create that impression?

                When a wicked rebel finally overthrows the government, he immediately becomes the duly constituted government and the officials of the former government become criminals. That is the law of the medieval thinker. It is not *our* conception of law, except possibly international law. Our concept of law is not about personalities. It is a set of common rules that at once bind all of us and free us. Our ideal of law is not order or preservation of the current regime, it is this: so long as a man stays on the clearly marked road of legality, he is utterly unassailable. Granted our laws fall short of that, but that is overwhelming what we expect from the law, even if we don't expect perfection.

                In China, the law is more vaguely drawn. It's brilliant in a way, because when you can't be sure when you've broken it you curb your behavior, but it's not law in our sense at all. It's just power.

                The higher ups in the Chinese Communist Party are honest men in the same way the rebel who seizes power and recreates the old regime with a different cast of personalities is an honest man. At any point in time, these men are "honest" for a certain value of "honest" -- a value that they get to define to suit their interests at the moment.

                What the Communist Party has done is give up on any pretense of socialism, replacing it by a pretense of a free market. You can't have a free market without a free society, and you can't have a free society without real laws. China is huge and full of talented people who would flourish under the rule of law. But the party only has to improve on its history of miserable failure to make things better. They can eliminate some of the things they did that were holding China back, and then take credit for the successes that follow, but that doesn't mean they aren't holding China back.

                What the article basically amounts to is that Chinese research is like everything else the party fosters and protects. There's good, talented people doing good work, but the institution is shot full of corruption. Why does this keep happening? Because the party has not adopted the single principle of "modernization" that really matters: accountability.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by wvmarle (1070040)

                  Accountability - yes that's an issue. Mostly to who the leaders are accountable.

                  And then fighting corruption is difficult when the whole society is corrupt. How can you make sure the anti-corruption body isn't corrupt themselves? Basically the age-old "who watches the watchers" issue. How to fight corruption in the police for a start? When you need that very police force to arrest corrupt people? You basically ask them to arrest themselves. And then the suspects will just again bribe the officers trying to

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by DarenN (411219)

                  Interesting post, with which I largely agree but:

                  You can't have a free market without a free society,

                  This isn't quite accurate (of course this depends on your definition of free society, I think you mean democracy of some kind. Apologies if I'm putting words in your mouth).
                  If you agree that prosperity is well-nigh impossible for a country at large without some kind of functioning free market (which it is, incidentally, for examples see sub-saharan Africa), it has been suggested, and I strongly agree with this, that prosperity is a pre-requisite for democracy

      • by saihung (19097) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:36AM (#31893508)

        I heard the same thing about academic credentials from my friends on various grad faculties. They simply cannot depend on any of the transcripts, CVs, or recommendations they get from China. There are so many universities that no one has ever heard of that it's basically impossible to confirm anything. And professors in China simply don't write rec letters. When asked, they do what only piss-poor professors in the USA do - they just have the student write the thing and they sign it, unread. If the situation is really bad, the student signs the thing too.

    • by Cryacin (657549) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:00AM (#31893110)
      Yep and so it goes. I'm sure either we or our children will hear about Africa, South America or Elbonia getting all of the outsourced manufacturing/IT work from China. It seems as though no matter whether you're communist, capitalist or any other -ist, when it comes to resource management, it's always a race to the bottom at all costs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational.

      Asian religions in general lack the fixed rules found in western moral systems. The ancient "Art of War" text is pretty much about using manipulation and deceit to win wars without even doing battle. This kind of cunning is prized in Chinese culture. It also results in less physical conflict.

      I don't necessarily think this means that westerners are more honest, it's just that cheating is frowned upon enough that it's usually caught earlier, among p

      • Why Do We Do This? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:36AM (#31893286)

        I mean, seriously. If it was some white dude in Wall Street caught in fraud, or some Ivy-League professor caught cheating on his results, we'd blame the perp for cheating, and the regulatory bodies for not catching the perp.

        But the minute it becomes Something About The Savage Yellow People, you get all these amateur anthropologists, who make well-reasoned and completely accurate statements, like this:

        The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational.

        I mean, the article makes it clear; the Chinese government doesn't want to police, and they're pushing for results (which is why they're crowing about the large numbers of papers published). Isn't that evidence enough for making wrong-doing easier?

        • Why We Do This (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:50AM (#31893336)

          We do this because many people who have the pleasure of working with China have such similar experiences of being treated royally and being ripped off. If these were isolated incidents, we would all point to the perpetrator as the guilty party, but what experience has shown us is precisely that it isn't the case of a few bad apples. Rather, there seems to be a systemic problem (maybe cultural, maybe a problem with incentives, who knows) that leads to a huge amount of what we Westerners would consider dishonesty conducted in Chinese business (and as we see here in education as well).

          You can act like a typical mefite and claim whatever moral high ground you want, but when the vast majority of those of us who have experiences in China all come back and say the same thing, it's you who is probably wrong, not us.

          • Re:Why We Do This (Score:5, Interesting)

            by victorhooi (830021) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:17AM (#31893440)
            heya,

            Disclaimer: Yes, I'm of Chinese descent.

            As sad as it is, I think I have to agree with many of the above commentators. There does seem to be a strange lack of morals in people from the PRC, particularly the students. In Australian universities, rightly or wrongly, they have something of a reputation for being underhanded, plagiarising cheats who you really, really do not want to have in your group assignments. That's not to say they're the only one's doing it, far from it, but they definitely have that reputation. Maybe things have changed, I don't know.

            In terms of the underlying reason, It could be for any number of reasons. Maybe they find the language hard? *shrugs*. But then students from other countries don't resort to cheating. Or maybe they don't quite understand what exactly plagiarism is? I don't know. I doubt it. Maybe they don't know how to reference? I worked in one group where they basically copied entire paragraphs, word for word, from our mentor's project (submitted the year before). They didn't even both to change the product names to match what we were doing. And when I confronted them, they didn't seem particularly repentant, more annoyed they got caught. Heck, I've seen them submit in Wikipedia articles as their project, formatting unchanged.

            I really don't think it's a cultural thing as such. True, Confucianism does have its weird quirks. But to argue that we have no morals is a little unfair. However, my father taught me a saying when we were young, I probably can't even write the characters anymore...haha...disgraceful, but basically, it went along the lines of when your wealth is short, your morals are correspondingly short. Maybe that's it. But I doubt most of the international students arriving here are exactly "poor", by any definition.

            I suspect it's really just a "win at any costs" culture endemic on the mainland, combined with their infamous mercenariness. Even in business, from what I've heard, you really, really want to be careful dealing with them. They'll screw you over nine ways to Sunday, and sell their own grandmother to make a buck. *sigh*. It really is sad to see, but maybe things will change, as they get wealthier?

            Cheers, Victor

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:57AM (#31894002)

              I'm a university prof in Japan. The Chinese students we get here are awesome. I try to get as many of them in my classes as possible. They actually do the work (very different from Japanese students) and come to class with something interesting/insightful to say (again, very different from Japanese students). I don't think you could give me enough of them.

              That being said, I did not have the same experience when I was teaching in the US. The Chinese students there cheated like mad. My friend (Japanese) who is now teaching in the US writes me at least once a month asking, "What should I do with all these Chinese students? They're all cheating!" I tell her to fail them, but she's too nice.

              Another friend taught in China for 2 years before joining our faculty here. She is Singaporean of Chinese descent. Her parents made her go to Chinese school so she could grow up to be a proper Chinese lady. Here is what she decided: Mao destroyed China. Having grown up on classics and traditional moral teachings, and being fluent and literate in Mandarin, she thought she knew what she'd be getting into when she went there. But she found that people were petty, dishonest, and did baffling things like take more than one handout, rather than one per person ("They're not worth anything!" she finally screamed). She concluded that when you kill off everyone with an education (or they run away to Taiwan or elsewhere), you're left with provincial morons who are greedy and lack social values. Then you impose a system on them that cannot provide for even their most basic needs, and they learn to grab anything they can get right now because they may never get another chance.

              And that's the reading of China that I've decided is the closest. It cannot be overstated how much Maoism changed that country, and mostly for the worse.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              To add to this -
              somethings joke surveys are run in Western nations along the lines of "would you have sex with someone who offered you $100,000 for it". A great number of people say "yes".
              Then they shrug and think about how unethical and unprincipled people in poor nations are who would do anything for money.
              What just doesn't connect in their minds is that the relative gain for these people IS equivalent to the hundreds of thousands.

            • Re:Why We Do This (Score:5, Interesting)

              by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @07:53AM (#31894380) Homepage Journal

              But to argue that we have no morals is a little unfair. However, my father taught me a saying when we were young, I probably can't even write the characters anymore...haha...disgraceful, but basically, it went along the lines of when your wealth is short, your morals are correspondingly short. Maybe that's it. But I doubt most of the international students arriving here are exactly "poor", by any definition.

              We have plenty of sayings like that... you do what you have to, for example. But by definition, if your morals change when your situation changes, you never really had 'em to begin with. They were just some half-formed convictions, that you discarded for convenience. They weren't morals. Maybe that's just an error in translation, but perhaps it's also amazingly telling.

            • by mooingyak (720677) on Monday April 19, 2010 @08:19AM (#31894522)

              I really don't think it's a cultural thing as such.

              followed by:

              I suspect it's really just a "win at any costs" culture endemic on the mainland ...

      • by Skreems (598317)

        Asian religions in general lack the fixed rules found in western moral systems. The ancient "Art of War" text is pretty much about using manipulation and deceit to win wars without even doing battle. This kind of cunning is prized in Chinese culture. It also results in less physical conflict.

        Not just that, but there also seems to be some cultural component that makes it a lot less okay to be wrong. I've heard from people in several different fields that it's difficult to work with Asian contractors or comp

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bhagwad (1426855)
        OTOH, the Chinese classic - the "Tao teh Ching" positively prohibits cunning and urges people to stop being too smart. It also talks about how the government should never interfere with the people and never to make too much of a commotion about anything.

        And it's older than the art of war...

        It goes without saying that the current Chinese government has completely forgotten the Tao teh ching and doesn't give a shit about its own culture.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PiSkyHi (1049584)

          The Tao Te Ching is one of my favourite books. I am now living in Beijing and it seems that of the main 3 fabled founders of Chinese Wisdom, Lao Tzu, Confucius and Sun Tsu, Lao Tzu is consistently misunderstood and misrepresented.

          It seems this text is too much like poetry and its brilliance only strikes a chord with very few - since its lessons require a kind of letting go of the illusion of control, most people can't hear its messages at all.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:29AM (#31893488)

        You know nothing about Chinese culture.

        First, Art of War is not a religious text nor a social/philosophical text. Like its name implies it was written as a manual for *war*, of course it doesn't teach morals (as some would even argue morals gets in the way of efficient warfare). Outside of warfare, all the great philosophers of Chinese history like Confucius preach honesty and nobility in treating others. Let's not even forget all the *real* religions such as Buddism and Tao which all talk about things like doing bad will bring bad back upon yourself.

        The problem is purely social due to communist ruling which led to a super-poor lower class who has nothing to lose and would risk anything because worse comes to worse, they die either way (either from hunger from lack of money, revenge for cheating someone, or capital punishment if caught, whichever comes first), as well as the new found rich whom 10/20 years ago were the super-poor, aren't educated enough to teach their kids proper morals, or worse still, teach them to be selfish because "That's how your dad got rich! you follow me and be ruthless or you'll rot like those beggars on the street". It will take another generation or two before proper education will change the mentality. But for sure it has nothing to do with religion (as much as I'm anti-religion, the religions in China DO have good morals as well as the same stuff like the Golden Rule), it's the social condition forcing it upon people.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jprupp (697660)

          The country I come from, Venezuela, has a similar Communist-style government, a share a lot of traits with China in this regard. They're willing to ditch moral and ethics when it comes to climbing up the social ladder. They're also quite poor and nationalists, and tend to engage in any behavior that creates an illusion of being smarter or wealthier, as a country or individual.

          Most participate in this illusion-building business, unwilling to accept information that can challenge their views of their own bogu

      • I'm not sure why that's relevant to the discussion at hand. War isn't normal morals, and misinformation and acting unpredictably has been part of it in western warfare too, long before they heard of Sun Tzu.

        E.g., even heard of the Trojan Horse? How's that for deceit in warfare? That's about a war from the 12'th century BC, while Sun Tzu is generally accepted to have lived in the 6'th-5'th century BC, while some place him as late as 3'rd century BC.

        Where was that morality of western religions then? Or maybe

      • by hrvatska (790627) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:04AM (#31894032)

        Asian religions in general lack the fixed rules found in western moral systems. The ancient "Art of War" text is pretty much about using manipulation and deceit to win wars without even doing battle. This kind of cunning is prized in Chinese culture. It also results in less physical conflict.

        So, should someone from China point to Machiavelli's "The Prince" as an example of the kind of cunning prized in western culture? Or maybe the "The Prince", like the "Art of War", is a product of a particular place and time and doesn't say much about contemporary culture in either the east or west.

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @08:01AM (#31894412) Homepage Journal

          So, should someone from China point to Machiavelli's "The Prince" as an example of the kind of cunning prized in western culture? Or maybe the "The Prince", like the "Art of War", is a product of a particular place and time and doesn't say much about contemporary culture in either the east or west.

          The Prince is Machiavelli's treatise on the Borgias. It is not a manual. It is a cautionary tale. To say that The Prince is the product of a particular place and time is to completely miss the point. It is a story about what can happen in any age if the powers-that-be are permitted to use fear to control the populace; the very point of the book is that it is an effective strategy for control of a populace, but it has terrifying and undesirable results. Of course, you and almost everyone else seems to have missed this nuance; For example, this study of the book [machiavellitheprince.com] refers to Cesare Borgia as Machiavelli's "Perfect Prince", while simultaneously explaining that Cesare "remains dependent on the power and influence of his father." Clearly he is less than perfect if he is not a power in himself, which was another moral of the book. It was necessary to continually extol the virtues of The Prince to avoid being killed for writing it.

          The Prince is a cautionary tale and and indictment of the acts of the Borgias, it was not a manual for statehood. But it still says plenty about contemporary culture in both the East and West because it is an examination of the human condition. Tyranny didn't end with the invention of the Cafe' Borgia.

          • by mike2R (721965) on Monday April 19, 2010 @08:57AM (#31894734)

            The Prince is a cautionary tale and and indictment of the acts of the Borgias, it was not a manual for statehood. But it still says plenty about contemporary culture in both the East and West because it is an examination of the human condition.

            Are you sure that is generally accepted? I'm sure I remember being taught that it was written as a job application. I've done a little searching online and found the job application idea (although not as a definitive interpretation), along with the idea that it is a satire, or even some sort of counterpoint to the Discourses (which I guess is what you are saying). I'm not sure your interpretation is universally accepted however, although I'm happy to be corrected.

    • The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational

      Mine too. But I get called an asshole for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational. Compound this with a manipulative media, and what you get are fat, happy citizens who are staunchly nationalistic and xenophobic. All they care about is money.

      Mostly true (especially the "care about money" part, Chinese are getting very materialistic and may surpass the US in that soon if they haven't done so already - looking at the better-off city dwellers at least).

      Manipulative media? Not really - manipulated media is the correct way to say it. The government manipulates the media in China, the press has very little freedom.

      And nationalistic yes for sure, xenophobic also but less strong.

      But fat and happy citizens? Well in the literal sense they are fattening

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:56AM (#31893354)

      The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational. Compound this with a manipulative media, and what you get are fat, happy citizens who are staunchly nationalistic and xenophobic. All they care about is money.

      Replace that "Chinese" with American and you would have a vaguely true statement as well!

      Although this report doesn't surprise me, China already had been faking Antiques 5,000 years ago. It's a long tradition.

      To be fair, faked results happen here from time to time. But the scientific community built around verifying thing would eventually collectively beat this type of behavior down - sometimes motivated by schadenfreude as much as anything from the pure good of their hearts. All that is different in China is probably this type of infrastructure. Nothing more or less.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        I suspect that if you dug into the root causes, you would find a massive amount of pressure on Chinese academics to "publish or perish." [wikipedia.org] Of course, publish or perish is a problem throughout academia worldwide, but with the Chinese government exerting such an extraordinary amount of Nationalistic pressure *on top of* the normal academic pressure, the temptation to fake results must be even stronger (and many academics have resorted to this under much less pressure). It's bad enough when grant money is at sta
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Chinese approach to ethics is almost purely situational.

      LOL! Just two stories down we got another news on worker extortion in the USofA! And you imply the lack of ethics as a completely Chinese thing.

      Have you ever did business with American companies? Verizon? Sony Music? Hello, anyone paying attention?

      Perhaps what you really meant was those Chinese researcher should be smarter and did their con job in the financial market instead? Then they could become billionaires and live a good life for a decade or two like Madoff did, rather than being caught AND didn'

      • by LingNoi (1066278) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:17AM (#31893856)

        In one instance you have worker extortion in the US where the employers (who I understand are from India) are caught and will be punished. On the other you have Chinese scientists who have successfully lied to the international science community in 60 of their papers and will not be punished in any way.

        "like Madoff did, rather than being caught"

        Are you from some kind of parallel universe? Madoff is doing jail time.

        Also, and this is the most important point. Why is it just because America has some issues you think that the Chinese should get a free pass to do even worse things without punishment. What the hell is wrong with you?

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Sorry to reply to your mail again :)

      I just noticed this story is now tagged "chinasucks"... oh well it's a US centric web site after all... too bad so many Americans have so rude ideas about this country.

      China is a great country, with many great people. Of course not all is well there too - but to start saying things like "chinasucks" well that says more about the tagger than China.

      I also often rile against the US (and at times also against China) but I won't say "ussucks". The government sucks maybe. So

  • by Anonymous Coward

    but they police citizens, opinions, the media, the internet....

    it's what I call:

    contradiction

  • by Superdarion (1286310) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:56AM (#31893088)
    Perhaps the scientist's cheating is a response to their government's insane minimum requirements for the number of publications a scientist with a government grant must have.

    If working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, is not enough to meet the requirements from the only funding available, what should they do? Give up and sell hot-dogs in wallstreet?

    I don't know, though. This is just a hypothesis.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

      This is just a hypothesis.

      Based on what?

      government's insane minimum requirements for the number of publications a scientist with a government grant must have.

      Do you have any information to back up this assertion?

      • No, which is why I called it a hypothesis and not a theory, which would require some sort of a proof.

        That aside, I'm a grad student in science and I know what grants are based on. It's not on your potential prowess, but on your record of published articles (and of course an interesting research proposal). No articles, no grant.

        Of course it doesn't go to the extremes. People don't lie just to get a grant. But if you consider China's rush to expand in every front, it wouldn't be unthinkable that their r
        • by Goldsmith (561202) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:34AM (#31893276)

          Let's clear this up...

          In China, the government grants are almost entirely political, and you're not fighting for tenure; tenure doesn't exist. Likely, you get your grants through your department head (who goes on all your papers). Essentially, your job is like a western stock trader. You have a job at the University, and maybe it pays well, maybe it doesn't. You get paid a bonus based on papers you publish. The higher the index of the journal you publish in, the higher your bonus. Those bonuses make up the majority of the salary for many scientists.

          Unlike in the west, if you're caught cheating, there are no automatic, immediate consequences. It's very much like stock trading here, with similar ethics and results.

      • by feepness (543479) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:53AM (#31893344) Homepage

        Do you have any information to back up this assertion?

        Yeah, there was this study in this Chinese journal...

    • by robotkid (681905) <alanc2052NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:56AM (#31893362)

      Perhaps the scientist's cheating is a response to their government's insane minimum requirements for the number of publications a scientist with a government grant must have. I don't know, though. This is just a hypothesis.

      That's actually not too far off the mark. The official salary of any government researcher is, well, well below what someone of equivalent schooling could have gotten in business or IT (as in most countries, only moreso). However, the government is pumping major sums of money at institutions that publish frequently, such that most researchers are paid hefty bonuses on a "per publication" basis by their home institution, usually a smaller amount for chinese-language journals and more for international journals, and a mega-bonus for high-profile journals.

      The bottom line is that you can become comfortable middle class by pumping out as many publications in the most obscure international journal that you can break the entry barrier into. You can become very comfortable indeed if you actually start cooking the data and publishing only in journals you doubt will ever fact-check your data (for example, a journal run by your buddy down the hall). And short of the journals getting wise to you, there is virtually no chance of being caught if you are careful - you simply choose your fake results to be just-interesting-enough to be publishable while not notable enough to garner any widespread attention. In all but the highest-tier journals, the peer review is under no obligation to also serve as fraud detection. Peer reviewers are anonymous, unpaid volunteers who are asked to assess if the presented data warrant the arrived-at conclusions, the system simply could not operate if we had to assume every submitted paper could be a carefully planted fake.

      In the US, the people who give you your grants work for some large federal agency that would start going over everything you have ever written with a fine-toothed comb at the first whisper of faked data. In China, the grant managers are often employees of the same institution that you work at, so there are all sorts of disincentives to proactively look for fraud.

      But just because the system is skewed this way doesn't mean they should be let off the hook by any means. Fake science is so much worse than no-science because it often forces others in the same field to have to expend scarce resources to identify, reproduce, and discredit it. And as the Central Government shifts to aiming for quality over quantity, they will have to pay the price sooner and crack down on massive fraud, or risk exclusion from the very same international scientific communities they hope to impress.

    • by saihung (19097) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:39AM (#31893524)

      Post-doc biologists at Harvard have to publish 70 papers in 7 years (if memory serves) to even qualify for a junior faculty position. There's no way that a scientist can publish ten papers per year that are worth jack squat, and the result is that most of the papers coming out of Harvard are garbage that get published because of where they come from. This isn't a China-only problem.

      • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:10AM (#31894060)

        Post-doc biologists at Harvard have to publish 70 papers in 7 years (if memory serves) to even qualify for a junior faculty position. There's no way that a scientist can publish ten papers per year that are worth jack squat, and the result is that most of the papers coming out of Harvard are garbage that get published because of where they come from. This isn't a China-only problem.

        Thank-you for pointing this out.

        In reading this whole thread, I am getting a MASSIVE propaganda vibe off the entire thing.

        Basically, the stress test of truth I sometimes use around here works like this. . .

        "If 98% of Slashdot is united in praise or condemnation on any subject, then somebody somewhere is playing the social-engineering violin extremely well, because this bunch can't even agree on the direction of gravity's pull. -Nor should they, which means something is wrong."

        I guess it's true; if you sustain a BS message for long enough, it becomes self-referential and emotionally true. How can we have come so far, learned so much and still fall for the same old and tired psychological ploys?

        -FL

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by anarche (1525323)

          Would that be the similar to the psychological ploy that seems to be planting the idea that the US is crashing as a country?

          Coz from where I sit, you guys are doing fine. A bit fragile at the moment, but some positivity and you guy's'll be up and about in no time.

          or you could keep China-bashing...

  • by outsider007 (115534) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:59AM (#31893106)

    Some of the Gucci handbags they make are not so authentic either.

  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@justconnected . n et> on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:02AM (#31893128)

    Listen, I think the more science that happens, the better. And I completely support Chinese scientists attempting to make China a science powerhouse.

    But at the moment they have no real reason to self-police. If the reputation cost to a journal of accepting a Chinese paper is too high (if fabrication is too rampant), they'll reject them out-of-hand to protect their reputation. Then, the legitimate scientists in China will need to kick some ass in their academia in order to be let back in.

    Whether it's factories selling the latest iPod design for cheap knockoffs, or faked research, China has been playing fast and loose with the rules of international relations. They're with the big boys now, for better or worse, and people are starting to not excuse them for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rm999 (775449)

      You don't see the risk of reputable journals passing over legitimate research because it comes from China?

      This could be the worst thing for science in China, and pretty terrible for science in general (imagine the split it could cause). Academic integrity should be bottom-up because fact checking from the top (from a journal's perspective) is often impossible.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      China loves fakes.

      Examples: fake Rolex watches, fake LV hand bags, fake jewelery (both as in copied design or fake gold/diamonds/gemstones), fake eggs (no kidding here - they appeared on the market in Hong Kong), fake medicine (featuring well-known brands on the packing but at best just a placebo and at worst a deadly poison), and fake beauty in their "miss plastic surgery" pageants.

      Mainlanders come in droves to Hong Kong to buy genuine hand bags, watches, jewelery, milk powder, medicine, and more. At lea

    • Yes, the journals should start mostly ignoring articles from academics in China, very little alternative, journals simply cannot fact check every article. I'd imagine China's strongest academics would still publish once their papers were referred to the journal by a respected western academic, but that'll hopefully stay rare.

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:47AM (#31893550) Homepage
      Agreed 100%. The problem is that this is China we are talking about. A few years back here on Slashdot I likened the .cn ccTLD to a sewer due to the rampant abuse by spammers, port scans other attacks coming from their IP space and so on. The response from many admins was to blackhole the .cn domain and China's IP space en masse, something I predicted would come back to haunt them as more and more Chinese business tried to establish ties with the West and were unable to connect. I guess the Chinese government must have finally realised that too, because they have just implemented a completely draconian set of restrictions to .cn domain registrations that have seen several resellers stop selling sub-domains in .cn altogether.

      Give it a couple of years and I suspect that we'll probably see a similar crackdown happen with the publishing of scientific papers in an attempt to rescue the reputation of Chinese science from whichever gutter it's languishing in by then. Chances are it will be just as draconian as with the .cn domain registrations, and equally likely that it will be far too late for at least some of the scientic journals that got their fingers burnt in the mean time.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 19, 2010 @04:33AM (#31893692)

      When you are dealing with science, if you want results, you have to do it right. Science is a process of knowing about the natural world. When done right, it allows us to separate things that are probably true from things that are probably false better than anything else. As such, we discover new things and develop new technologies to make our lives better.

      However, that only work when you do it right. If you just make shit up, your results are worthless. After all I can write up a study that shows I have psychic powers. I can have mountains of fabricated data to support that. However, that won't do anything to actually give me any psychic powers.

      So, while individually the faked up research may do well for the scientist in question, getting them a better job and so on, nationally it'll set China back. Their fake research won't generate real results when you get down to it.

      As Feynman said "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." This was with regards to the Colombia disaster. Here was a case of faking up the science to support the conclusion that was wanted, which was that things were safe. Well, all that was for naught, as the reality was it was NOT safe and blew the fuck up.

      Same deal with any science. If a Chinese scientist fakes results on a study of a silicon doping technology to allow for smaller transistors, and a Chinese fab then tries to build equipment based on it, it won't work. Doesn't matter that there was a paper saying it would, if the research isn't true, it doesn't help. The laws of physics are what they are, we can't change them. All we can do is understand them. If our understanding is wrong, well then tough shit for us, our stuff won't work like we predict.

  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:07AM (#31893154)

    As discussed here many times before (this is not new): Chinese scientists are judged by number of publications, just that. Just the number. As a result a PhD student will do their best to pump out as many papers as possible, as the more they manage to get published the better future career prospects they have.

    The quality of the papers is simply not taken into account when it comes to job offers.

    And then this is the obvious result. Lots and lots of papers, with little to no really new information, and on top of that a lot of made-up stuff by the ones that really have nothing new but still need the numbers.

    • Good. Let them put up a farce about a major facet of the image they project to the outside world. The Soviets did that, and look where they wound up.
  • by AHuxley (892839) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:29AM (#31893252) Homepage Journal
    Post ww2 it was a mess. By the 1960's it was a real North Korea, no food, cook your neighbour mess.
    Then China made a deal with Nixon and they joined the rest of the world again.
    Be like EU/UK/US and let your scientists have the freedom to raise cash, be funded, fail, dream and work on projects for decades. China did not have the time.
    Go Soviet and steal everything in easy reach and then steal some more. Long term your not trusted and are always a gen behind.
    So China flooded the west with grad students to suck up the 'how to study' feel and report back.
    Slave wages at home saw an influx of hi tech production lines too.
    No big brands to push quality, no quality control, no political/science long term reality.
    Just toxic production lines and a flow back of quality tech from the US.
    What stays at home and is not in the mil, is useless, expensive, sheltered, protected and politically unstable.
    Study hard, publish papers, get good flat, join Party, get rich quick does not produce a good long term results.
    The Party knows this but rapid, cheap, lifestyles buys the party a few decades.
    Decades to build national brands and sell quality to the world on slave wages.
    China has its best in Africa, the US, learning, understanding, extracting and building.
    The raw materials and know how have to come together to create wealth.
    Papers in international journals is just PR and jobs at home while the real work is been done.
  • But (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hellop2 (1271166)
    how can we trust the results of this article?
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr@@@telebody...com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:06AM (#31893396) Homepage Journal

    I wonder what happened to those two profs from Jian who sent in all those fabricated crystal papers.

    Sadly, although I am looking to do business in China in the future, I have come across many anecdotes from people who tell me it is very dangerous.
    - Someone I know well lost millions due to Chinese side refusing to pay for computer equipment sold
    - One firm in Hong Kong told me mainland companies prefer to hire their CFOs from Hong Kong because they are seen as being more trustworthy
    - Several companies that had focused on China, leaving it and heading to Japan, due to difficulty in finding trustworthy partners.

    I think China has reached a point where cheating in one way or another is limiting its growth potential severely. The main factor in considering a project in China is how not to get screwed. This is not a theory I made up, but actually what has come up in discussions about 2 different companies who have asked me to sell their products in China.

    The news articles attached suggest that academia is also completely ridden with cheating unfortunately. I can't see that the country will be able to get anywhere in the future without a sweeping change. I don't think it is a matter of imprisoning or killing academics like China has done with financial or government people in the past. The only idea I have is for someone to give John Boswell a grant to translate the Symphony of Science [symphonyofscience.com] videos into Chinese. This could be mandatory viewing for all academics, and the leaders of universities would be required to institute programs for instilling a new culture of honesty in students and having papers tested before they leave the university. Another idea is to create a bilingual (Chinese-English) transparency website that can be used to discover cheating authors and to also post what happened to them when they were discovered.

    The attempt would be to supplant this supposedly celebrated part of Chinese culture and redirect the energy into an understanding of what science is really about. Clearly, you cannot perceive the wonder, or make great contributions, if you cheat. The linked articles suggest that this understanding is not yet mainstream in China, or is too overshadowed by the economic chaos.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      I don't know that the Symphony of Science will help. It isn't a problem with the scientists as you've pointed out, it is a general cultural problem. The current culture in China is one that is very short sighted. You do what is good for you now, and don't worry about what comes later. Well, that kind of attitude can lead to some real problems, as our recent economic downturn did a good job showing. However in China it is very much a national attitude like that and it really permeates all facets of life. So

  • China is fine.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558)
    India, however, is much, much worse.

    Poles melting soon, anyone...?
  • I'm not going to argue for or against the cultural component to the problem - but I do think there are parallels between modern China and the United States around 1900. The big industrialists are king, and the government is more concerned with keeping those rich entrepreneurs happy than with bothering them about pesky laws. It's really a "wild west" sort of mentality.

    I expect that a decade or two having to deal with the rest of the industrialized world will largely straighten this out, whether the root is c

  • China is a highly authoritarian regime, no surprises that their equivalent of the ministry of truth is DoublePlusCooking the results :D

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:28AM (#31893894)

    It seems that science coming from the old Soviet Union was top notch by comparison. Although there were some egregious cases (such as with Lysenkoism) of ideologically-driven suppression of science, overall it seems that Soviet scientists were very well respected by their international peers, most especially in mathematics and physics. Their scientists received several Nobel Prizes, whereas the it seems that the People's Republic of China doesn't actually have even one: none of the four Nobel Laureates of Chinese descent did the work which won them their prizes while they were in China, under the Chinese system of scientific research, and all of them, ironically, had at some point become citizens of the United States. Compare this with the Soviet prize winners, all of whom worked under the auspices of the Soviet scientific research institutes when they did their prize-winning work.

    The Soviet experience shows that a repressive, totalitarian society is still able to produce cutting-edge science, so the fact that China is doing so badly in this area probably has nothing to do with their form of government. You might say that if they really wanted to be a scientific and research powerhouse they're doing it wrong. They might look to how the USSR did its work in the Cold War years if they wanted a "socialist" model on how to do science so as to be respected internationally.

  • Bad guy (Score:3, Funny)

    by jprupp (697660) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:06AM (#31894048)

    The authorities don't want to be the bad guy.

    Seriously?

    Is there another country named China I'm not aware about?

  • by jurgen (14843) on Monday April 19, 2010 @07:01AM (#31894224)

    Folks, this has nothing to do with Asian vs. Western culture in general. This is about one thing, very specificially... WITHIN the framework of modern Western society (which dominates the whole world today, including China) China's government has been more heavily promoting and rewarding success in education and research, whereas the Western governments largely reward and promote success in business. Both do what they do without any regard to ethics. The result in China is lying and cheating in academia. The result in the West is lying and cheating in business, which in its milder forms is known as marketing and has become so entrenched that it isn't even considered unethical anymore. In its more severe forms, which are equally pervasive, it leads to Enrons, Maddocks, industries totally dominated by monoplies, etc.

    Simple and obvious.

    :j

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rayonic (462789)

      So you're saying that Chinese businesses aren't more corrupt than Western ones?

      Your attempt at moral equivalence is as rickety as, well, Chinese research papers.

  • wikipedia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ogive17 (691899) on Monday April 19, 2010 @09:27AM (#31895006)
    So basically China is the wikipedia of research papers? While there is probably plenty of legitimate research being done and pubilished, there is enough fake or plagerized data to make everyone skeptical. It may be a good starting point, but never reference a Chinese paper or get laughed at by other professionals.
  • I've heard this same issue come up from two different bio researchers - one doing post-doc work (French), and the other finishing his PhD (American) here in the US. They both related the same 'joke' about Chinese research, something like, "A non-PRC scientist approaches science to seek a result...a PRC-trained/educated scientist asks, "What result do you want to see?" Faking data is rampant among the Chinese students here in the US according to them, so much so that the non-Chinese are being passed over for grants here because they're shackled by such pesky things as 'ethics' and the scientific method. Afterward, when the grant donors see results blow up in their faces when reviewed by peers, they're usually too chagrined to make an issue out of it, having been made thorough fools of.

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