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Evaluation system flawed

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-16 07:36

Visitors communicate with a robot named Xiaopang at the 2016 China Lanzhou Science and Hi-Tech Achievement Expo on Sept 24. [Photo/Xinhua.net]

The Ministry of Science and Technology recently made public the results of the investigation it launched after Tumor Biology, a journal published by Springer Nature, retracted 107 research papers from China in April. Most of the retracted papers were authored by clinical doctors, and the investigation found the peer review process had been compromised.

The announcement reignited concerns over academic credibility in China. Despite being an isolated case, the large number of research papers retracted by the journal seriously compromised the international reputation of China's research circle, the ministry said. The incident underscores the need for China to clean up its academic environment by strengthening its efforts to root out academic misconduct.

However, the academic malpractices of those involved in the scandal should not tar all Chinese researchers with the same brush. The academic cheating in a specific area is not representative of the country's entire research efforts.

Since Tumor Biology announced the retraction of the papers, several State departments have responded by organizing a joint conference to look at punishments for academic misconduct and ways to build credibility. Such an attitude reflects the country's resolve to eliminate academic malpractices.

But as well as effective punishments, a reasonable research evaluation system needs to be introduced.

Why medical research has become a key area for fraudulent research papers in China is because of the long-standing existence of the ridiculous phenomenon whereby publishing an academic paper is of more value in a doctor's professional assessment and thus to his or her promotion than completing 1,000 operations, a phenomenon that has fueled academic counterfeiting among doctors.

Research should be built on honesty and integrity, but the country should also change its unreasonable research evaluation system and try to create a fairer scientific academic evaluation environment.



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