Saturday, December 8, 2007

Wither "International Journal"

When Professor Xiao Chuanguo was a candidate for an Academician post in Chinese Academy of Science in 2005, his resume boosted that he had published 26 research papers. These papers were all written in English, he claimed, apparently to enhance their credibility. After an extensive search in publication databases, Fang Zhouzi concluded that, at that time, Professor Xiao had only published 4 papers in "international journals". The rest of them, Fang pointed out, were only abstracts submitted to conferences, whose inclusion as bona fide papers in the resume is one of Professor Xiao's unethical practices.

The term "international journals" is widely used in China, to distinguish publications in domestic ones, which are not widely read and generally considered inferior as credentials for achievements. It's not unusual for Chinese Academy of Science and universities to impose performance standards that included number of papers published in "international journals".

Among the various disputes around Professor Xiao's credentials, this one seems to be the easiest to decide. However, a judge in Wuhan presiding on Xiao's libel case against Fang Zhouzi has other ideas.

During the proceedings in the Jianghan District Court, Xiao Chuanguo produced a different list of his publications as evidence that he had published more than 4 papers as Fang Zhouzi claimed. Indeed, this list includes 15 papers, and apparently none of them were abstracts for conferences.

Upon close examination, however, these 15 papers are entirely different from the original 26 Xiao had listed on his resume. Indeed, there is no longer any conference abstract in these 15. But 9 of the 15 were actually written in Chinese and published in Chinese journals, in direct contraction of his "written in English" claim accompanying the original 26.

Nevertheless, the presiding judge of the case, Luu Ying, ignored this detail and ruled that since these Chinese journals are publicly available internationally, they are also "international journals". Therefore, Fang Zhouzi's claim that Xiao had only published 4 papers in "international journals" is a falsehood.

This peculiar ruling raised many eyebrows in the academic circle in China and became a running joke. Unfortunately for many, Chinese legal system does not allow the use of legal precedent. Otherwise there could be a flood of lawsuits by people who had lost their positions due to their lack of publications in "international journals".

In the meantime, the real issue, that Professor Xiao Chuanguo had used conference abstracts to inflate his original resume (which he had tacitly admitted by providing a different list in court), had fallen wayside and been ignored.

No comments: