Tuesday, December 25, 2007

An Academician Who Plagiarized

In 2001, someone reported to Fang Zhouzi a plagiarism case involving a famed Academician of the Chinese Academy of Science, Professor Yang Xiongli (杨雄里). In 1998, Yang published a review article in Chinese, which is almost verbose of an earlier published review by Eric Newman and Andreas Reichenbach, "The Muller Cell: A Functional Element of the Retina" in Trends in Neuroscience, 1996.

To be sure, Fang Zhouzi did a thorough analysis of the two articles and concluded that it was indeed a blatant plagiarism. Yang's article has 14 paragraphs, 11 of which were either entirely or almost entirely copied from Newman and Reichenbach. In the few cases that Yang tried to make adjustment to the text, he actually misrepresented the original meaning. The details of the analysis can be seen here.

Professor Yang did not respond to the charge himself. His students published an open letter defending his character and laud his achievements. But the only defense to the plagiarism charge they had was that the original article was cited in Yang's article, albeit near the end.

The case was never investigated by any authority. Fang Zhouzi raised this case again earlier this year when a professor from Fudan University, Yang's school, asked the public to report fraud cases. But he has received no response.

Earlier this month, Fudan University did hand down punishments on three fraud cases in the school. Yang Xiongli's was not among them.

Would/Could a clear plagiarism case involving an Academician be investigated?

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