Ministry investigates retraction of scientific papers – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for June 15, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology announced on June 14 that it had started an investigation into an academic scandal in which 107 research papers by Chinese scientists were retracted by a major international medical journal in April. “We have zero tolerance toward academic fraud. Authors found to have cheated will be severely punished,” said the ministry in a statement. “Although the retraction is a singular case, it caused a very bad influence, seriously tarnished the international reputation of China’s science circle, and hurt the self-esteem of Chinese scientists.” It has been almost two months since the Tumor Biology journal announced the retraction, and its publisher, Springer, added that “the peer-review process was compromised through peer-review reports that were fabricated.”

Although the ministry vowed to thoroughly probe the case and has already suspended government funding and projects undertaken by the authors under investigation, He Defang 贺德方, a ministry official in charge of rule enforcement, emphasized (in Chinese) that it is unusual for a journal to retract such a large number of papers that were published over the years all at once. “To some extent, they are being irresponsible,” He said.

However, the official’s statement backfired online. On the social media platform Weibo, one commenter wrote (in Chinese), “These papers were retracted because the journal was being responsible. It is your irresponsibility that led to too many fabricated articles.”