Monday, December 22, 2008

Beijing Court Sides with Fang Zhouzi on CEB Rice Case

After half a year's recess, Beijing Western District Court reached its verdict on the libel case CEB Rice had filed against Fang Zhouzi.

The court considered a laundry list of evidences provided by both sides and chose to rely on only those on which neither side had explicitly objected.

On Fang Zhouzi's claim that the science behind CEB Rice was not an original discovery, the court found it was without factual bases (to which Fang Zhouzi disputes). Nevertheless, the court concluded that the defendant's claim was within the boundary of freedom of expression and did not constitute falsehood, insult, or libel.

On whether the protein SOD could survive the rice-cooking process and be benefit to human body, the court maintained that it was still not a well-established scientific fact. The dispute on this issue was normal expressions of opinion, and therefore not libel.

Finally, the court found the defendant could have used better language in his criticism but could not find any intention or fact of libel. Therefore, the court rejected the plaintiff's case and ordered CEB Rice to pay for the court fee.

It's quite remarkable that this court has unequivocally used the "freedom of expression" clause to decide this case in Fang Zhouzi's favor.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How Not to Win a Nobel Prize for China

The Chinese government has become so anxious in the prospect of winning a Nobel Prize that it provided all-expense-paid trips for Nobel committee members to China "to explain the selection process and what it takes to win a Nobel Prize". The matter is currently under investigation by a Swedish anti-corruption prosecutor.

Hey, it had worked for the Olympics!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fang Zhouzi is one of "People of the Times"

Although his web site is still blocked in China, Fang Zhouzi is getting more and more publicity and recognition through his books, newspaper columns, and blogs in that country. Most recently, he was voted as one of thirty "People of the Times for China's Education" (中国教育时代人物). The selection was made by internet users and sponsored by the China Education News and three other official sites. Its purpose was to recognize thirty people who had made significant contribution to China's education through the thirty years of reform.

In an ironic twist, Fang Zhouzi's name was listed next to one of his nemeses, the president of the Xian Fangyi College Ding Zuyi. In his blog, Fang Zhouzi commented on such an occurance as "It's so harmony."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

At Nankai, the Best Teachers are all Administrators

Recently, Nankai University(南开大学) announced that they are honoring ten professors in the school as the best teachers of the year.

A curious netter took a look of the list and reported on New Thread that everyone on the list is either the Dean, Associated Dean, or head of their department. Apparently, administrators can really teach in this school.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Students in Limbo after Expulsion

China Youth Daily tracked down a few students who had been expelled from the Newcastle University for using forged applications. Three of them agreed to be interviewed under the condition of not using their real names. They said all the students are now stuck in Britain unsure about their next steps. Eight of them had appealed their case and had them denied. Many were busy applying for other schools. But even if they are successful in that, they are not sure if they could maintain their visa status.

One of the three admitted that he/she knew that his/her application contained forged material. The other two claimed that they had never personally seen what were used in their applications. All of them had used some agencies in China to prepare and submit their applications. They declined to name the agencies.

From the interview, it appears that the agency or agencies took a free hand in fabricating TOEFL scores and personal experiences. School officials at Newcastle University appears to believe that these students were in fact swindled by the agencies. They have agreed to refund almost all tuition while remain unyielding with the decision of expulsion itself.

The mood of these students in their twenties is described as fear and helpless. Some of them have yet to tell their parents of their expulsion.

Government Aviation Site Rips Off Blog

Danwei reports that a web site owned by the Civil Aviation Administration of China had plagiarized an article published by blogger David Wolf. The article, as Danwei verified, was an exact copy but without any attribution.

The article is no longer available at the CAAC web site.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

49 Chinese Students Kicked Out of British University

Forty nine new students from China, plus one from Taiwan, had been expelled from the Newcastle University in Great Britain for having forged their application material. A spokesman from the school was quoted saying "The forgeries, mainly certificates for English language qualifications or degrees awarded by other universities, are of such high quality that they could not have been detected by the usual checks carried out by admissions officers."

The school is advising other universities to take a closer look at their admission procedures.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is the Chinese Academy of Science the Culprit of the Melamine Poisoning?

The crisis of tainted food is still spreading deeper and wider in China. Melamine contamination is now found in milk, dairy products, candies, and chicken eggs. It has now become apparent that, for many years, the chemical melamine has been added to animal feed and milk to artificially inflate the reading of protein levels. This intentional act is responsible for the pet food scare a year and half ago and has now caused four infant deaths and thousands of children in hospitals suffering from kidney stones and other illnesses.

Although the addition of melamine has been a wide-known secret in China, nobody really know how it got started. About a month ago, a netter posted in XYS an advertisement of technology transfer, dated July 30, 1999, from the Chinese Academy of Science. The ad promotes a new, cheap, and easy-to-make additive for animal feed that would boost the nitrogen content of the feed. It had a simple description of the raw materials (industrial organic chemicals and fertilizers) and equipments (boilers, mixers, and driers) involved and a price for the expertise and training. It did not, however, disclose the name or content of the additive.

The ad was reposted all over the Internet in China. Could this be the "invention" of the melamine contamination? The uproar is so deafening that the Chinese Academy of Science issued a rare public denial this morning.

The Academy spokesman conceded that the ad did read suspiciously close to a melamine operation. But a group of experts who had analyzed the ad concluded that its advertised technology could not reach the high temperature required for melamine. Therefore, it could not have been an advertisement for making melamine additives. The spokesman further claimed that the institute from which the ad had appeared no longer exists. The person resposible for the advertised technology was not even a researcher, but an "institute leader" who had come from a logistical support background.

However, the Academy did not disclose any information on the material or technology involved in the original advertisement. They did promise to continue paying attention to this issue.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shi Yigong Granted

Tshinghua University's Professor Shi Yigong has received a grant designated for outstanding young researchers with a foreign citizenship. During the public review period, Fang Zhouzi had openly questioned Shi Yigong's qualification and possibly forgery in this application. He had also sent his objections to the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation's Supervision Committee, via both email and cerfified mail. He has never received any response from the Committee. It was not clear if the Supervision Committee had ever paid any attention to the case, despite the fact that it had been well publicized in Chinese media.

Fang Zhouzi declared that he had lost all confidence with the Committee and will no longer be willing to make any further contact with the Committee.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Verdict on the Fake Tiger Pictures

The brouhaha associated with the fake South China Tiger photographs came to a quiet end today, with Zhou Zhenglong being sentenced to two and half years in prison for fraud. Upon hearing the verdict, the fifty-four year old farmer simply said, "I did a wrong thing. I am ignorant of the law."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Did Beijing Olympics Steal the American Anthem?

There have been many controversies surrounding the operations of the Beijing Olympics. The latest came from this morning's NPR:
The source of the American national anthem being played at the Beijing Olympics during medal ceremonies is in question. Peter Breiner wasn't watching the Games until his friends starting calling to say, "That sounds like your arrangement." It does. Especially the "Rockets Red Glare" section — an unusually soft string rendition that brought some controversy when it was used in Athens in 2004.He got paid for that rendition in 2004. Now Mr. Breiner says he's "100-percent positive" that the Chinese borrowed it from his work. In an email to The Washington Post, the Chinese insist they came up with the arrangement themselves.
The Washington Post has a lengthier report on the same issue, in which it quoted the email as saying "All the anthems and songs used at the Beijing Games were orchestrated by Chinese musicians." It did not appear to address the issue of arrangement.

The Washington Post article expressed pessimism in resolving this issue properly, noting that China "is not a place known for its strict enforcement of copyrights."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

IOC Decides to Investigate Gymnast's Age, Finally

The allegation that the Chinese government has deliberated fielded underage gymnasts in the Beijing Olympics has been brewing ever since the competition started. The International Olympics Committee had been steadfastly refusing to look into the matter, citing a lack of concrete evidences.

Until now.

It seems that the mounting evidence has finally reached the tipping point even for the reluctant IOC, which belatedly decided to launch an investigation. It is still not clear how aggressive and deep the probe is going to be. It is nice to see that for once IOC is not taking the date of birth in a government-issued passport at its face value.

For the record, my own Chinese passport lists my birthday as 10/28/1999. I better grow up fast so I could compete in the Olympics myself!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Did Professor Shi Yigong Step Over the Line?

Professor Shi Yigong, who recently gave up a prestige position at Princeton to return to Tsinghua University, had been making a name for himself in China. Unlike the fellow returnee Professor Rao Yi, Shi Yigong tended to boast a higher personal profile. In an interview on Science Times, he claimed that his return was motivated by a strong patriotic brief. He expressed the desire to teach a new course on patriotism in Tsinghua.

Yet Professor Shi Yigong had already become an American citizen while he was in the United States. It might be quite awkward for him to teach such a course in China.

What's more, his status in Princeton was far from clear. It did not appear that he had simply given up his post as he had claimed. The Princeton University web site listed him simply as "on leave until September 2009", which means that he still maintains a position there.

There was no question that Professor Shi is working full time at Tshinghua right now. But his status at Princeton University brought up a questionable issue in his receiving a research grant from the Chinese National Natural Sceince Foundation. The grant, intended for outstanding young researchers, had a clear requirement for any applicant of non-Chinese citizenship that they should not be holding any position in a foreign institute at the time of their grant application. Professor Shi had clearly violated this rule.

Fang Zhouzi openly raised the issue to the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation, accusing Professor Shi Yigong's alleged forgery in his application. As usual, this ignited a vast controversy. Rao Yi defended his friend, claiming that it usually takes a long time for a professor to make a transition between institutions. But he could not address the issue of the grant directly. Shi Yigong chose to remain silent in public. In private, he offered to talk to Fang Zhouzi with an explanation. Fang Zhouzi declined, insisting on dicussing the issue in public.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Artistic License Running Amok

The biggest forgery committed during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was apparently with a direct order from a member of the Politburo.

Hijacking The Albert Einstein Award

A couple of weeks ago, a netter reported on New Thread that a suspiciously large number of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners are claiming themselves to be recipients of an "Albert Einstein World Award of Science". Indeed, a simple google search on the "Albert Einstein World Award of Science" in Chinese ("阿尔伯特·爱因斯坦世界科学奖") yielded many such claims:

1985: Zhu Renkan (朱仁康)
1987: Liu QiuFang (刘猷枋)
1987: Tu Youyou (屠呦呦)
1988: Yu Guiqing (余桂清)
1988: Tang Youzhi (唐由之)
1989: Xie Zongwan (谢宗万)
1989: Chen Keji (陈可冀)
1990: Cheng Xinnong (程莘农)

Among them, Chen Keji and Cheng Xinnong are academicians in the Chinese Academy of Science and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, respectively. There are also indications that more people had received this award, all of whom are TCM practioners in the Academy of TCM.

The Albert Einstein World Award of Science is a prestigous award given out annually by The World Cultural Council headquartered in Mexico. A list of its recipents are available on their web site. None of the above names existed.

Fang Zhouzi recently wrote to the World Cultural Council for an inquiry, and received the following reply from its General Secretary, which he posted on New Thread:

(Certainly, there is a misunderstanding regarding this situation. I have already checked, all these people were candidates nominated for the Albert Einstein Award in the respective mentioned years. But none of them got the Award.

I have checked our records and found that, the Council has sent them by post mail in those days, a diploma recognizing their participation as candidates to the Albert Einstein Award in the respective years. I would like to inform you that the winners must receive the Award in person at the Award Ceremony, the Award consist of a Medal a diploma and a cheque.)

Apparently, these distinguished TCM practitioners, including our Academicians, had mistaken a receipt of acknowledgment as an actual award, never mind that they had never received any medal or check.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Dean Lost His Job For Being Not Quite A Ph. D. (And Lied About It)

Last year, a netter with a pseudonym "woodpecker" reported on New Threads that the dean of the College of Environmental Science and Technology in Taiyuan University of Technology (太原理工大学) had fabricated his degree.

Professor Wang Zengzhang (王增长) had studied at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland from 1994 to 2002. Upon his return, he told his colleagues that he had earned a doctoral degree there. But he never produced a certificate or thesis. According to the report by "woodpecker", someone called the school in Finland and found that Professor Wang actually only earned a Licentiate degree, half way between a Master and a Ph. D.

More than half a year later, another netter reported on New Threads that Taiyuan University of Technology had verified the claim. It stripped Professor Wang's position as a dean and his license to advice Ph. D. students. There was no mention whether he continues to teach in the university.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fang Zhouzi's Book Published in Taiwan

Fang Zhouzi reports that his book, Achieving Health Scientifically (科学成就健康), has now been published in Taiwan. The Taiwan edition was actually a combination of parts of his book by the same name and another book Debunking Traditional Chinese Medicine (批评中医).

In its preface, Fang Zhouzi praised that government regulatory work on food and medicine in Taiwan is superior than that in the mainland China.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To Become an Academician, It Pays To Bribe

In 2007, Professor Chen Zhinan (陈志南) of the Fourth Military Medical University (第四军医大学) was elected as a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

It was a remarkable achievement for his university, which had wholeheartedly backed his candidacy for years. So much so, that a Commissar at the military university gave a speech, proudly appraised the efforts the school had expended on Professor Chen's behalf.

After much hyperbole and superlatives on the work they had done, the Commissar came to this critical step in the process:
Before the Spring Festival of 2007, based on our analysis of the situation in the Academician selection process and with the blessing of our superiors in the school, we organized two teams of people to go to Beijing and visit all the relevant Academicians. It was quite effective. The fact later proved that, the appropriate use of connections and gifts was not only necessary but also required [for the successful election of an Academician].
Indeed, it pays to bribe and you can be proud of doing it too!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chinese Universities Top Feeders for American Ph. D.s

The July 11 issue of Science magazine reports that two Chinese schools, the famous Tsinghua and Peking universities, are the top feeder schools for Ph. D. degrees granted in the U. S..

The full text of the article can be read here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Closure on the Faked Tiger Photo

When the last shoe finally dropped, it was already so uninteresting that it hardly was news-worthy any more. The pictures of the distinct South China Tiger are indeed a fake, just as people had known all along. The fact that it took so long for the authority to take action, however, is a different story entirely, as commented by CNN:

In the nine months since the first of Zhou's photos was released and posted online, it ignited debate on issues that bedevil a rapidly modernizing China -- faked goods, greed and officials' lies.

Ultimately, the scandal revealed popular disgust with government and corruption and showed that public opinion, amplified by the Internet, can occasionally win out in authoritarian China.

"In my opinion, this is the struggle between the truth and government interest," Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Fudan University, said in a phone interview this week. "Zhou's just a normal farmer who was inspired by money. The big boss behind this is, of course, the officials of Shaanxi province."

Zhou Zhenglong, the perpetrator of the scam, was arrested for fraud. More than a dozen local officials who had stood behind the story were disciplined. Some were fired.

It was one story, which showed the severity of the credibility crisis in China, that has had a happy ending.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Donation Has Sent Out A Thousand Books

1,161 books, to be exact. That's how many copies of Fang Zhouzi's book Achieving Health Scientifically that had been sent to local libraries all over China, through the donation drive sponsored by Fang Zhouzi and OSAIC.

The stated goal is to send out 5,000 copies. The donation drive is still active. More books can be sent as soon as funding is available.

Yanbian University Takes Quick Action on a Plagiarism Case

Almost every day, people are reporting various academic fraud cases on New Thread. While the cases receive great exposure there, it has been rare that any of them receive serious attention by the proper authorities, not to mention investigation.

So, it is nice to see that, in one small case, action has been taken quickly and swiftly. On June 19, a netter reported a plagiarism case in a Master degree thesis at Yanbian University. Barely two weeks later, the school disclosed its its findings and confirmed the practice of the plagiarism. In its official announcement, the school resolved to strip the awarded Master degree from the perpetrator. In addition, his adviser received the penalty of a three-year suspension in advising any graduate students.

Monday, June 30, 2008

CEB Rice Trial in Recess

The trial of the defamation case brought by CEB Rice against Fang Zhouzi commerced on June 30 in Beijing.

After opening statements by each side, the court proceeded with the plaintiff submitting evidences to the court. The shear amount of evidences apparently had taken up all allocated court time and forced the court into a recess. The judge declared that the court will have to find a date later to continue with the case.

With only a couple of exceptions, the plaintiff's evidences were largely various media reports on their achievements and the popularity of their product. Again and again, Fang Zhouzi's lawyer repeated the same words to indicate that the evidence presented was true but irrelevant and unreliable.

The transcript of the trial was available on the Internet in real time. A copy can be read here.

It is not immediately known when the court will resume this case.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Broadcast of the CEB Rice Trial

It turns out that the broadcast of the CEB Rice trial is not going to be in stream video. Rather, it is just a real-time display of the court proceedings, in text. You can access the text reporting (all in Chinese) here, but you have to use IE as your browser.

Many thanks to Yush for pointing it out and the link.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trial Date Set for the CEB Rice Case

The CEB Rice case, in which Fang Zhouzi had been accused for defamation, will be tried in the West District People's Court in Beijing on June 30. The trial will be open to public and available with stream video on the Internet. It's not clear if the practice of streaming video of court cases is a common practice in China or not.

The latest issue of the China News Weekly summarized the case in a detailed report, which is very favorable to Fang Zhouzi. Fang Zhouzi insisted that his accusation of fraud was about the company's product, not its technology as the lawsuit had claimed. The story also quoted several other scientists who questioned the claims of the CEB Rice company.

Particularly damning to CEB Rice is an interview with a businessman by the name of Zhang Jiang. Zhang Jiang had worked with the founders of CEB Rice, the parents of the current plaintiff. According to Zhang Jiang, their original attempts in creating a super-nutrious rice had failed miserably. After they gave up their experiment, the other two partners founded CEB Rice without Zhang Jiang's knowledge. An angry Zhang Jiang provided evidence to the paper of fraudulous behavior commited by CEB Rice, including selling rice that was contaminated.

CEB Rice did not respond to the reporter's requests for an interview.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Fraud Buster Who Steals

Yang Yushen (杨玉圣), a professor at the University of Political Sciences and Law and a member of the Scholar Integrity Committee (学风建设委员会) in the Ministry of Education, could be a comrade of Fang Zhouzi in the efforts of exposing academic corruption cases. Professor Yang runs a web site dedicated on "academic critism", which publishes numerous articles on academic integrity. In fact, Professor Yang has been claiming himself as the "First Fraud Buster of China" ("中国打假第一人"), even though his efforts had followed Fang Zhouzi's and also trailed badly in popularity and significance.

But much worse, Yang Yushen himself has been a target of Fang Zhouzi's fraud-busting. At XYS, a "For the Record" page documented many cases of Professor Yang's wrongdoings, including duplicate-publishing his own papers in multiple journals. He was also known as falsifying author names for the many articles published in his own web site.

Just this week, Fang Zhouzi found that an article originally published in XYS was stolen by Yang Yushen and published in Yang's web site. Yang Yushen made a few superficial editing changes in the article and made-up a new name, based on the original author's name, as the author. Fang Zhouzi presented a series of evidences, including his own editing changes to the article, to prove his case.

It was not the first time Professor Yang Yushen had stolen contents from XYS. A similiar case was exposed in 2005.

Professionalism of School Teachers

During the devastating Sichuan earth quake, a school teacher ran out of his classroom without taking care of his pupils. He later openly publicized his actions and his thoughts behind it and became an instant celebrity of sorts in China.

The teacher was later fired from the school and stripped his teaching credentials, which opened yet another can of worms.

On the internet, the teacher had gained more attackers than defenders. Each side has been passionately arguing on his moral and legal stance on the matter.

A couple of days ago, Fang Zhouzi jumped into a foray and pointed out that there was another issue behind the case: the lack of professionalism in China. In a brief essay titled To Be a Teacher One Has to Act Like a Teacher, he said that the teacher's action demonstrated that he did not have the professionalism required for a teacher.

Echoing previous arguments by Rao Yi, Fang Zhouzi said there was no real translation of the word "professionalism" in Chinese. Teachers, just like doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, architects, and accountants, are special professions that demand certain higher moral obligations to the people they serve.

The widespread corruption in many of such professions in China, Fang Zhouz conluded, is rooted in the lack of professionalism.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fang Zhouzi on Predicting Earthquakes

EastSouthWestNorth had translated Fang Zhouzi's essay on The Dream And Reality of Earthquake Prediction into English. It was originally published in Chinese on China Youth Daily and New Threads.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another Video of a Staged Donation

After the snuffle at CCTV, another video of a donation drive in a high school in Guangdong is circulating the internet. In the video, school officials were seen to repeatedly taking out cash that was just dropped in the donation box and distributing them to students who then took turns to donate the same cash:

As outrage mounted, officials from the school quickly issued a statement. They explained that the actual donation had already happened a day earlier, without the presence of any camera. When local reporters learned about the donation drive, they requested a repeat performance so they could get some footage. Thus born the "recycling" donation.

It appears that such staged-for-camera events are pretty common among journalists in China.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The "Science" Behind Predicting Earthquake

After the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, many speculations were spreading over the internet. Was this earthquake predictable? Or more seriously, had predictions been ignored?

Erratic animal behavior has always been a mainstay in the earthquake-predicting folk-lore in China. This one is no exception. But it is even more than that. There is a claim that a paper, published in a scientific journal in 2006, had actually predicted an earthquake in Sichuan area in 2008!

The paper, titled Study on Earthquake Tendency in Sichuan-Yunnan Region Based on Commensurability, was published in the September, 2006, issue of the Journal of Catastrophology, can be downloaded here (in Chinese, with English translation of title and abstract at the end). It listed four authors, Long Xiaoxia(龙小霞), Yan Junping(延军平), Sun Hu(孙虎), and Wang Zuzheng(王祖正), all from the Shaanxi Normal University (陕西师范大学). Its abstract claimed that
Based on the data analysis of earthquake disasters in Sichuan-Yunnan region, the tendency of the next strong earthquake(s) is predicted by commensurability of ternary, quaternion and quintuple, for the purpose of disaster prevention and reduction.
It is a very short paper, consisted mainly the tabulation and listing of historical data. With much parameter fitting, it reached its conclusion that the year 2008 will be the most likely time an earthquake of 6.7 or higher would happen in the Sichuan-Yunnan region.

After the publicity, New Threads published a series of articles debunking the methodology of this prediction at here, here, here, and here. Most point out that the paper had engaged in simple regression and extrapolation with a selective use of data. For example, the paper only used the years in which earthquakes of ranking 6.7 or higher. There was no explanation why 6.7 was chosen. It also treated the calendar year as an atomic unit of datum, ignoring the fact that there might be multiple earthquakes within one year.

Most damning of all is that, one author found, should the authors of the paper did their research before 1993, their method would have predicted a strong earthquake there in the year 1993. There was none.

So much for this prediction of earthquake.

CCTV Apologizes for Its Video Snuffle

After showing footage of Olympic torch bearers donating money for earthquake effort but without any money being donated, CCTV owned up its snuffle and issued an apology. It explained that, after the actual donation, with money, had already finished, the torch bearers were called back by a camera man to do a double take for memorabilia. That tape, in which they had no money to donate, was inadvertently aired.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CCTV Stages Fake Donation

In a segment on CCTV, reporting Olympic torch bearers making donation for the earthquake disaster, it can be clearly seen that nobody made any actual donation:

It would be too cynical to think these people faking donation on their own. Most likely, it was a staged scene, very badly done.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Victory for Supervision of Public Opinion?

Danwei reported that CCTV, the official television news station in China, has defeated a libel charge case filed by a towel manufacturing company. In its program, CCTV had exposed the towels being made there as of low quality and contained cancer-inducing chemicals. While the low quality part is true, "there was no evidence that the towels contained carcinogenic substances", according to an official test report.

The manufacturer filed libel suit in Beijing First Intermediate Court, demanding a public apology and damage. The Court "dismissed the charges, saying that 'manufacturers should tolerate sharp criticism from the public and the media.'", according to Danwei.

The Danwei article also cited editorials from several mainstream newspapers in China, hailing the verdict as "a victory for supervision of public opinion". Beijing Youth Daily compared the case with the New York Times Co. v Sullivan case in 1960, and framed the issue as a free speech one.

It's obvious that the court cases Fang Zhouzi has to face are very similar to this by CCTV. This is even more true to the most recent case involving the CEB Rice. Could this "victory" be extended and help on his cause? We could only hope. However, as Danwei also deftly pointed out:
Different from the United States, case law is not in China's law system, which means judges don't need to follow precedents. So even though CCTV won its case, it doesn't mean any other media will be immune from similar charges.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Teacher Calls For A Ban Of "Inbreeding" in College

An open letter anonymously signed as "Young College Teacher at Capital" is published at New Threads today, calling for a ban of what he/she called "inbreeding" in colleges in China.

Apparently it has become a common practice that teachers in a college in China can apply for and be admitted to the graduate schools of the same school (presumably within the same research area of his/her teaching). It is billed as a win-win convenience: the teacher can continue to teach in the school while pursuing and obtaining a higher degree.

Such "inbreeding" behavior, the open letter stated, is absolutely forbidden in the colleges of most other countries, as it could lead to academic corruptions worse than cheating and plagiarism. It could seriously damage the credibility of the graduate school program.

The open letter also cited a statistics that, on average, 60% of teachers in a college in China graduated from the same college they are now teaching in.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cheating In the Party School

No, not any party school. The Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C. (中共中央党校) is not an ordinary school, the unfortunate English translation not withstanding. It is a school specifically designated to train the next generation of high-level cadres of the Communist Party of China. It is a ritualistic milestone for any person's advancement in a career in the party apparatus and the government leadership.

With a stake thus high, not to mention the fact that candidates have been carefully selected for their characters, one would not expect blatant cheating in this school.

And one would be surprised.

The Party School published a bulletin on April 7, detailing some of the cheating cases it had caught during its graduate school exam this year.

In one case, they intercepted wireless communications between an exam-taker and a helper outside. In two other cases, they found the exam-takers are not who they are supposed to be. They are hired guns. Yet two more cases involve exam-takers smuggling cheat sheets into the exam.

The bulletin indicated that all the above personals have been disqualified. It also mentioned many occasions that exam papers have been illegally marked (presumably to provide a hint to graders). Those are also disqualified.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rao Yi: Chinese Culture Lacks Professionalism

During an interview with the newspaper Science Times (科学时报), Professor Rao Yi described his experience after returning from overseas and his vision for Peking University.

When asked about difficulties and challenges he had encountered in China, Rao Yi observes:
Chinese culture lacks professionalism [Rao used the English word here]. There is no formal translation for this word, because there is not yet such a concept in Chinese culture.

There is also a lack of intellectual [again, Rao used the English word here] atmosphere in China's academia. This word ["intellectual"] has been mis-translated in Chinese for a long time. The reason is also that there is no such concept in Chinese culture. It ["intellectual"] should be an activity that is higher than knowledge itself. [In China,] people work on science purely for the purpose to be better than the next person, to publish more papers. They don't exchange ideas and talk about their research only when they are ready to publish. It is not only being selfish (小家子气), but also an indication that they are not doing as an intellectual pursuit. There are also people who never come to scientific discussions. For them, research is clearly just a job, not an intellectual pursuit. This is very common in China.
Perhaps fearing for controversy, Science Times deleted this paragraph when it published this interview. However, the complete version of the interview is also widely available on internet in China.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fang Zhouzi Will Defend Against CEB Rice Case

As reported earlier, CEB Rice has sued Fang Zhouzi for defamation. The lawsuit was filed at Beijing's Western District Court (北京西城区法院). CEB Rice is asking for 20,000 RMB ($3,000) in damage and a public apology.

According to China News, CEB Rice accused that Fang Zhouzi has been openly questioning the company's core technology and caused grave damage to the company's operation. The company's Chief Scientist Nie Xiaomei (聂晓梅) provided a copy of certification from the Wuhan Branch of the Chinese Science Academy in 1991, which certified that her research was an innovation that was "a first both at home and abroad", which had opened up new research areas.

Fang Zhouzi announced on New Thread that he had authorized his lawyer to accept and defend this case, because the publicity of such a case will help raise awareness of consumers on the truth behind the "super-expensive rice". In a brief note, Fang clarified that his criticism of the rice was entirely on the product, not the technology. The technology itself had existed abroad long before its "discovery" by the CEB Rice scientists anyway.

Fang also pointed out that the "certification" is meaningless if it is not backed by publications in international journals.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Book Drive Needs More Donation

The book drive to donate Fang Zhouzi's book to local libraries in China has so far received some $1,700. It is still far short of the goal of $5,000.

If you could help, please make a donation here. Make sure to enter "book donation" in the "purpose" field.

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Super Rice Is Not Just Super Expensive

There is a new kind of rice on market in China. It is claimed to be super healthy. It is packed with superxoide dismutase (SOD) that consuming a cup of this rice results the equivalent of taking 4000 Vitamin E pills! It is also super-expensive: it is selling at a price of 30 times of that of regular rice.

The manufacturer of this rice, CEB Rice (德润生), advertises its product as a technology breakthrough that was originated in China and unique in the world. Their technology is called Cell Endophyte Bacteria (CEB), a microbe that live within a cell of plant. The company was able to create a new kind of rice, whose cells contain rich CEB, which in turn contains large quantity of SOD. The company claims that every kilogram of its rice contains 300,000 units of SOD.

Fang Zhouzi and others have been quick in criticizing the various claims of CEB rice. In a recent radio interview, Fang pointed out that CEB was not originally discovered in China, as the company literature has claimed. It was first discovered near the end of 19th century and then in the mid-20th century, all abroad. The two scientists in CEB rice, credited for their discovery, are both unknown in scientific community. CEB has been studied for fertilization and drug purposed, but never as a nutrient. There is no scientific literature on CEB's effect as a nutrient.

SOD, on the other hand, is a type of protein. As all protein, it loses its potent after being heated, which is essential when consuming rice. Proteins are also digested and cannot maintain their original effects.

If the company's claims were true that consuming a cup of this rice is equivalent of taking 4000 Vitamin E pills, then the result would be terribly, as Vitamin E overdose is very dangerous.

Facing the criticisms, CEB Rice has been unusually quiet. But as the sale of their expensive rice starts to decline, they are taking legal actions. Beijing Youth Daily reported that CEB Rice has sued Fang Zhouzi in court. The company spokesman is quoted as saying: "For so long, Fang Zhouzi has been judging our product based on his own knowledge. He has criticized us in many media outlets. He has also published these irresponsible words in his blog. We have been collecting the evidences and are ready to solve the problem with legal means."

Meanwhile, Fang Zhouzi claims that he has not learned about the lawsuit. He will decide whether to respond it based on the content of the suit. "If it will benefit the fraud-busting efforts, I will respond and defend myself."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Making Of A Presidential Paper

The Journal of Shanghai Jiaotong University (上海交通大学学报) published an article titled "Reflections on Energy Issues in China" in its most recent issue. From the look of it, it is just like any other academic paper published in the journal, with an abstract (both in Chinese and English), key words, lots of data, figures, footnotes, and references. There was only one thing missing, however, the author only provided a name. There was neither a byline for the author's institute nor any contact information for the author.

The author's name was Jiang Zemin. It should be widely recognizable throughout the country. He is the ex-President of the People's Republic of China. The 81-year old Jiang is also a proud alumnus of the Shanghai Jiaotong University.

In an subsequent article, an editor of the Journal, Gong Hanzhong (龚汉忠), recalled how this "special" paper was published.

Near the end of 2007, at the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Jiang's graduation from the school, school leaders contacted Jiang and asked him to write something for the school journal. It would also make a special presentation to the 112nd anniversary of the school itself this April. Jiang agreed and submitted his paper to the Journal at the end of February.

According to Gong, the editors at the Journal immediately went into a frenzy of excitement. They worked past midnight the night they received the paper and thought the paper was extremely significant and special. In subsequent days, Gong said the editors burned midnight oil for many nights. They made many revisions and produced five or six versions of the manuscript.

There was also no mention of any peer-review process for this manuscript. Although Gong emphasized that the editors were strict and thorough and produced records showing their editorial marks, the only example he gave was that they changed the term "carbon-dioxide" from its Chinese name to the format of the Journal convention.

It is of course impossible to verify whether Jiang actually authored the paper itself. But Gong indicated that, during the revision process, they received galleys full of Jiang's own handwritings.

Meanwhile, immediately after the publication of the paper, the National Energy Bureau organized a study session for the paper. The attendants include all the "heavy weights" of the nation's energy community.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Making of First-Rate Universities in China

Following Rao Yi, Shi Yigong (施一公) has recent become another high-profile professor who had permanent returned to China. Shi has been the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of molecular biology at Princeton University and is now a Professor and Associated Dean of the College of Bioscience and medicine at Tsinghua University in China.

The two of them, Shi Yigong of Tsinghua University and Rao Yi of Peking University, just published an article in the newspaper Guangming Daily (光明日报), on the making of word first-rate universities in China. This of course has been a very hot topic in the Chinese academia. But the article of Shi and Rao does show a degree of candidness and reality that has been remarkably missing in the discussion.

For example, Shi and Rao frankly pointed out that the current universities in China has yet a long way to go before becoming first-rate: "In most cases, the academic level of the average full professor in China is lower than that of the assistant professor of a first-rate university." It is a strong verdict indeed.

To make progress in this area, Shi and Rao said that China's universities must change their management philosophy and style, adopting the international standards and creating a new system that could attract both the top researchers and the young post-docs and assistant professors from around the world.

While providing a new voice on the issue, the article, however, did not contain any concrete ideas in how to achieve such lofty goals.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Doping in Traditional Chinese Medicine

One of the biggest advantages of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), its supporters argue, is that the medications are made from natural materials such as herbs or animal parts and are therefore safe, without the side-effects of most modern medications.

But the effectiveness of TCM has never been scientifically established. So much so that even the manufacturers of TCM are not confident in their usefulness. Therefore, it has become a common practice to add components of modern medicine into traditional prescriptions and still sell them as TCM medicines. These components, and their side-effects, are rarely disclosed and the drugs are continued to be sold over the counter, even for the consumption of infants.

There had been media reports in the past that TCM medicines exported from China were found of containing components that do not belong in TCM.

As the Beijing Olympics approaches, authorities in China began to worry about potential doping scandals. In mid-March, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) circulated a list of TCM medicines that are known to contain stimulates or dopes. It advised the manufacturers of these drugs that they should have included an "Athletes Caution" label so that athletes would not be using these and be found guilty of doping.

The list was quite an eye-opener. It was first reported in New Threads on March 22, by Zhang Jiawei, who pointed out that over 500 TCM medicines have been found to contain prasterone or DHEA, a steroid hormone.

In all, 1,227 TCM medicines were identified to have stimulates of some kind. Fang Zhouzi pointed out that, while some of them existed naturally in herbs, others, such as prasterone (普拉雄酮), hydrochlorothiazide(氢氯噻嗪), clenbuterol (克仑特罗), could not have come from natural components but have to be intentionally added during the manufacturing process.

While these TCM, or fake TCM if you will, use doped modern medicine components to enhance their effectiveness, they are actually sold with a higher price than the corresponding non-TCM pills, which are of higher quality and better understood side-effects. Consumers who had bought these TCM medicines over the counter are unlikely to be aware of these additives and their purported effects and side-effects.

Much worse, among the 533 TCM that contains prasterone, many of them are intended for the use of babies and infants. It's a mystery why prasterone has to be added for baby medicines, but their existence will certainly harm the natural growth process of these little patients.

It seems so far that the SFDA is too pre-occupied with making sure the nation's athletes are aware of the danger of doing in these TCM medicines to taking any necessary actions in safe-guarding the health of the general public.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fang Zhouzi and OSAIC Launches a Book Donation Drive

Fang Zhouzi's popular science books have been selling well in China. One book in particular, Achieving Health Scientifically (科学成就健康), is a best seller. The book is a treatise of modern and scientific knowledge in every day life, including medicine, nutrition, and life styles. It also rebuttals many common misconceptions and disinformation in these areas, most of them originated from the ill-conceived beliefs of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

In particular, the book provides a laundry list of known side-effects of many popular TCM medicines. The medicines are openly sold over the counter in China and abroad, often without any mention of their (sometimes deadly) side-effects.

The book is very well received in China. Many young people have bought extra copies for their parents and elder relatives in the hope that they could be persuaded by a more scientific view of health.

Now, Fang Zhouzi and his publisher has decided to donate about 5,000 copies of this book to local libraries and organizations. They will provide the books for free and the publisher in China will also provide the manpower needed in processing the books with no charge.

All they needed is funding to provide the shipping expense. For this purpose, the Organization of Scientific and Academic Integrity in China (OSAIC) has launched a book donation drive to raise the fund. The shipping cost is estimated to be $1 USD per book. It does not take much, but could have a huge impact. (Most of the instructions are in Chinese, but you can also easily understand the donation instructions in English.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Buck's Retraction and Zou's Rebuttal

The high-profile retraction of a published paper by Nobel Prize winner Linda Buck has been widely reported in mainstream media. The retraction contains a paragraph outlining Author Contributions to the original paper, which appears to be pointing a finger to one of the co-principal authors. Without explicitly accusing forgery, it says that the said author Zou Zhihua (邹志华) had "prepared and analysed the mice and provided all figures and data for the paper". The authors now find that they "have been unable to reproduce the reported findings" and that there are "inconsistencies between some of the figures and the data published in the paper and the original data."

The news got much attention in Chinese media and community primarily because Zou Zihua is a Chinese and received college education in China. He had earned his Masters degree from the No. 1 Military Medicine University in GuangZhou, China, and then a Ph. D. from Osaka University School of Medicine in Japan. After that he joined Professor Buck's laboratory and performed the experiments now in dispute.

After the news broke out, Zou had maintained a public silence and declined all media interviews. However, he appeared to have entered a couple of comments himself on the Nature News site. In one of them, he was clearly resentful that he was being singled out as the sole responsible party. Despite the fact that he had also signed the retraction, he still stood by his data and figures:
Yes, I signed the retraction letter and hope every scientist who is aware of the problems with a paper will take similar actions immediately. However, I stand behind the conclusions of the paper and believe the experiments can be repeated. I am planning to do so. This will undoubtedly be daunting to a struggling junior faculty, and no one can guarantee success. I agree with the view that everyone who is on a publication should take full responsibility. Otherwise, stay in the acknowledgment.
Meanwhile, having totally lost her confidence in Zou's work, Professor Buck had asked for a review of two other publications in which Zou was also the lead author.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Combinatorial Interpretation of TCM's Emperor Court Hiearchy

Dr. Chen Zhu (陈竺) is not only an outstanding biologist and researcher in China, he is also the head of the Ministry of Health in the government. He is also well known as a strong believer and advocate of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). As a scientist and health official, he has frequently spoken out the importance of TCM as a cultural heritage as well as useful means for curing diseases and improving health. With his position, he is working on providing more and more fundings into the TCM.

He is also active in using the modern biological research tools, particularly the systems biology, to prove the philosophy and methodology in TCM. His latest result is causing a mini wave in the Chinese media.

In a paper just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), Dr. Chen and his coworkers (including his wife Chen Saijuan), described their dissection of mechanisms of a TCM formula as an effective treatment for promyelocytic leukemia.

The TCM formula, or the medicine Compound Huangdai Tablets (复方黄黛片), has been available and in active medical use in China for many years. There are a few earlier researches testifying its effectiveness in treating leukemia, but none of them appear to meet the rigorous standard of drug testing. Chen's new paper provided more evidence of the drug's effect at cell level.

But Chen et al. also go further. They dissected the compound medicine into three major active ingredients and claimed that they acted in combinatorial synergy in treatment. That is, one ingredient could not do the job as effectively without the presence of the others.

Still, there is nothing terribly new here.

But when the news of this paper's publication is reported in China, it took an entirely different tone. China Daily, in its English report, was quite modest in claiming that "TCM applauded for leukemia treatment". Other media went much further. Based on a press release from Chen's institute itself, the news was widely reported as PNAS's recognition of TCM itself. Chen's research, the reports said, not only shown the effectiveness of one drug, but also proved the ancient TCM philosophy of how to construct a compound drug: 君臣佐使.

Simply put, this philosophy models four components or roles in a compound drug as a court of an emperor. The emperor (君) serves as the principle in attacking the disease; the minister (臣) acts as assisting and augmenting the principle; the assistant (佐) also assists the principle and counter-reacts any possible side-effects of the principle; the servants (使) acts to deliver the medicine where it should go.

Such terms did not exist in Chen's paper itself, although the paper emphasizes on the combinatorial synergy of the components it identified. However, a diagram in the press release displays their belief that their research indeed is based on and provides evidence of this ancient philosophy:

Interestingly enough though, they only had three components so the two cohorts, the ministers and the assistants, have to double-duty as delivering servants as well.

The press release and news report also contains many descriptions of the "Yin" and "Yang" of the components, which did not exist in the research paper itself, just as the above diagram.

Fang Zhouzi criticizes these news report as another example of distortion to fit its own agenda of advocating TCM. Also, due to Dr. Chen is a member of PNAS' editorial board and PNAS' archaic policy, Fang questions whether this paper has been properly peer-reviewed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Xu Liangying Awarded 2008 APS Sakharov Prize

The American Physical Society has awarded its 2008 Andrei Sakharov Prize to Xu Liangying (许良英) of Chinese Academy of Sciences, "For a lifetime’s advocacy of truth, democracy and human rights -- despite surveillance and house arrest, harassment and threats, even banishment -- through his writings, and publicly speaking his mind."

In China, Xu Liangying is perhaps best known for his translations of Einstein's Works which were published in late 1970s. In an article published a couple of years ago, Fang Zhouzi fondly recalled his meeting with Xu in Beijing. Fang credited Xu's translation as one of the most influential in his pursuit of science in his youth.

Xu Liangying is also a well-spoken scientists who had got into serious trouble with the government many times. The New York Times had profiled him as Einstein's Man in Beijing: Rebel With a Cause.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Beijing Olympics Steals Games

Well, not the Games.

The official Beijing Olympic web site is being accused of stealing fun Flash games. According to the author of the original game, who emphatically stated that "The Olympics stole my game":

They downloaded the swf file from my site, decompiled it, swapped out the little guy for the Fuwa characters, took my name off of it and republished it as their own. I can tell this is what happened because they are still using some of my original art from Snow Day (the clouds and the ice cube are exactly the same). I also took the liberty of decompiling their game and actually found it still contains the sound files from Snow Day, even though they aren’t being used in the Olympic version. It even still has the splash sound effect from The Lake (I used the engine from The Lake to make Snow Day and must have forgot to delete this file).

Two of the other games on the Olympic site are obvious rip-offs of Ferry Halim’s Orisinal games. Compare Obstacle Race on the Olympic site with Ferry’s adorable Arctic Blue, and Leap and Leap, a clumsy copy of Winter Bells. I can’t really tell if these are clones or reskinned versions of Ferry’s files, but those stars in Leap and Leap look pretty damn similar to me.

The author is sending cease and desist letters to Sohu, which created the site for Beijing Olympics, and the organization committee.

OSAIC Reports on Donations to Fang Zhouzi's Court Cases

Back near the end of 2006, things were looking rather bleak for Fang Zhouzi. He had just lost three court cases brought by people he had exposed as fraud. Each case imposed steep penalty in damage payouts. Although he had vowed, and has been continuing, to defy the court orders and refuse paying any fines during appeals, he also faced mounting legal fees that he could not avoid.

It was at that time, the Organization for Scientific & Academic Integrity in China (OSAIC) was formed in the United States to provide financial backings for his and other similar endeavor. Registered in the State of Florida as a not-for-profit organization, OSAID's Bylaw states that her purpose is to provide "financial support for efforts in the exposure of and legal actions against scientific and academic frauds, as well as promotion of general scientific knowledge in China."

After more than a year, OSAIC had just released it's first annual report. As of November 5, 2007, OSAIC had collected donations in the amount of $30,449.61. Pretty much all the donations came through the internet, by the community who had followed closely the New Threads web site.

In the past year, OSAIC also provided funds of $4,842.58 for Fang Zhouzi and his lawyer to defend the libel and defamation cases in China. Also, it provided another $11,200.00 for the defense of Xiao Chuangguo's case filed in New York.

OSAIC is also in the process of securing the 501c(3) tax exemption status. However, so far it has been tied up in IRS paperwork.

You can visit this donation page (in Chinese) to make a donation to OSAIC.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Potty-Mouth Professor Ends His Diatribe

Ji Guangmao (季广茂) is a Professor of Chinese at Beijing Normal University (北师大). Like any other professor, he publishes articles and books and writes a blog on his research and life. But for the past three months or so, he suddenly became very famous for reasons unlike any other.

It was in the November of 2007, the Literature & Art Studies (文艺批评) journal published a review article that was highly critical to one of Ji's books.

The criticism must have stricken a chord in Ji's heart. In an immediate response, Professor Ji published a provoking article in his blog on December 5. He characterized the review article as a vicious attack and the author a "beast" (畜生), an extremely degradative term in Chinese. What's more, he declared that he would become a beast himself, so that he could fight against the attacker at the same level!

And he was not kidding. From that day forward, he published numerous articles in his blog attacking the author of the review article, filled with juvenile dirty words. His behavior was so shocking and bizarre, he became known as the "A-hole Professor" on the internet.

It last for more than 80 days. On February 25, however, Professor Ji apparently came back to his senses. He deleted most of the offending articles from his blog and apologized for his behavior, which in his own words had tarnished the image of his profession and school. His school and department expressed relief. There was no word on any penalties he may face.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Xinhua Apologizes For Fake Photo

Thus reports the Wall Street Journal.

Plagiarizing Fang Zhouzi Himself

Besides spending a lot of his time busting scientific fraud, Fang Zhouzi's main interest remains in writing. He is a proficient writer of essays on popular science and culture, mostly in the form of newspaper columns and sometimes simply internet articles. Due to their popularities, his essays are often being re-published again and again, mostly without his permission or even any credit to his authorship. Sometimes they were also being plagiarized.

However, it is still unusual to see one of his earlier essays being blatantly plagiarized by a professor from the famous Tsinghua University (清华大学).

In an essay published in the newspaper The Economic Observer (经济观察报), Tsinghua's Professor of Sociology Sun Liping (孙立平), told two curious stories he had just read from the internet: one about the interesting character Joshua A. Norton who had proclaimed himself "Emperor of these United States" and another of the "independent" Conch Republic in America.

Almost the entire content of Professor Sun's essay was to retell these two stories he just read, plus one ending paragraph stating his own reflections of the two stories. The problem is, his "retelling" was simply a "copy&paste" job, with only minor alterations of the original. Other than stating that those are the stories he just read, he did not give any source to the Horton story, but mentioning the Conch Republic story was from another magazine.

Unfortunately for Sun, the Horton story was originally written by none other than Fang Zhouzi, who believes that he was the first person to introduce that story to Chinese audience, several years ago. In fact, he provided a verbatim comparison of his original and Professor Sun's version and publicly accused Sun for plagiarism.

Facing Fang's charge, Professor published a "clarification". In it, he reaffirmed that the stories were not his own and he had failed to locate the original author of the Horton story. He apologized to Fang Zhouzi for failing of citation, but denied the plagiarism charge. He did not explain why it was not plagiarism, only saying that it would be too "heavy" a charge in this case.

It appears that Professor Sun is an honest and diligent scholar. He probably believes that, if he had properly credited Fang Zhouzi as the source, he could freely "borrow" the text from the original as well. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is extremely common in China's academia. Given that Sun is a Professor at one of the top universities in China. It's no wonder how deep and wide the practice of plagiarism could have spread in China.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Farming Graduate Students for Personal Income?

It is reported on New Threads that the dean of the College of Bioengineering at East China University of Science and Technology (华东理工大学), Professor Wei Dongzhi (魏东芝), has been advising 47 Ph. D. students and 19.5 Masters students during the school year of 2005-2006. That is, during that school year, he is advising 66.5 graduate students at the same time.

Apparently his hard-working is well rewarded. This information is obtained from a listings of the college's compensation calculations. For guiding so many graduate students, Wei received 15.53 points in this job category, which translated to 45,037 RMB ($6,000) in personal income.

Other professors in the same college are not as proficient as Wei. The professor who had the second highest points in this category only received 5.73 points, for advising 13.5 Ph.D. students and 15 Masters students.

Monday, February 18, 2008

China and Japan Lead in Plagiarism in Biomedical Journals

A recent study by a team at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found wide-spread plagiarism in research papers in Biomedical journals, available in the Medline database. The researchers used a combination of a computer search program and text-matching software to automatically survey the seven million available biomedical abstracts to find possible duplication entries, and then further identify cases of plagiarism. Their result is published in Nature, which can also be read here.

With the various statistics the study had gathered, the Nature article provided a rough breakdown of plagiarism according to original countries of the authorship:
In general, we find that the duplication rate extracted from the total Déjà vu database for each country is roughly proportional to the number of manuscripts that country contributes to Medline. The top eight contributors to Medline are the United States, Japan, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Canada, representing close to 75% of all Medline records. However, two of these countries, China and Japan, have estimated duplication rates that are roughly twice that expected for the number of publications they contribute to Medline. Perhaps the complexity of translation between different scripts, differences in ethics training and cultural norms contribute to elevated duplication rates in these two countries.
Also commenting on this result, Fang Zhouzi pointed out that this study had only covered publications in English language by Chinese authors and therefore did not reveal the whole picture of how wide spread plagiarism is in China. Should a similar study be conducted to Chinese language journals, Fang believed that the rate of plagiarism and duplication would be much higher. It was also an accepted "norm" in China that researchers publish the same results first in English journals and then its translations in Chinese journals, or vice versa.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Science Magazine Reports Disputed Research in TCM

The current issue of Science has a report titled "Lifting the Veil on Traditional Chinese Medicine". You can read Fang Zhouzi's translation, as well as the original English, here. It's about the new "Herbalome Project" in Dalian, China, a "15-year effort to identify the constituents of herbal preparations used as medications for centuries in China".

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long been an ultra-controversial issue in Fang Zhouzi's fraud-busting efforts, as he believes that TCM is a practice of pseudoscience that has detrimental side-effects to public health. For many years, he has advocated a rational approach to abolish TCM as a medical practice but examine the medicines for their true effects and side-effects (废医验药).

In this report, Fang was quoted as stating that "TCM is not based on science but based on mysticism, magic, and anecdote" and the Herbalome Project is "a waste of research funds". Reflecting the current status of TCM, the report says:
Since the Mao Zedong era, the government has strongly supported TCM, in part because it was too expensive to offer Western medicine to the masses. It remains taboo for Chinese media to label TCM as pseudoscience. "Criticizing TCM is unthinkable to many Chinese and almost like committing a traitorous act," says Fang.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fang Zhouzi's Interview with Denmark Newspaper

Fang Zhouzi had an interview with the Denmark newspaper Weekendavisen on the subject of his fraud-busting efforts. Both the English and Chinese versions are disclosed at New Thread. Here is the English version:

1) What would you consider the most important case of scientific fraud that you have helped unveil? Why was it important?

Since 2000 we have exposed about 700 cases of scientific fraud, and it will be difficult to single out the most important one. "Nucleic acid nutrition" scheme is probably the one. It was the first case that brought wide media coverage (both domestically and internationally. The prestigious Science magazine ran a special report about it). It involved more than a dozen of Chinese biochemists, who held "conference" and "hearing" to defend the scheme. After 6 years, the battle hasn't finished. Zhen-Ao Company is still advertising its "nucleic acid nutrition" products on CCTV.

2) Is scientific fraud a larger problem in China than elsewhere? Why? Is the situation improving? If so, why? If not, why not?

The problem of scientific fraud in contemporary China is so widely spread that it's a unique phenomenon, which I prefer to call it "academic corruption". It's larger than elsewhere or any other periods of China. It's the result of interactions between totalitarianism (the lack of freedoms of speech, press and academic research), extreme capitalism (try to commercialize everything, including science and education) and traditional culture (the lack of scientific spirit, the culture of saving-face, etc). The situation is somehow improving. There is awareness that this is a serious problem. Compared to 6 years ago, Chinese media are more willing to report the misconduct cases, appeal for a reform and criticize government, and have more freedom, although still very limited, to do so. And Chinese government at least admits this is a serious problems and has issued several regulations (but we are still waiting to see it take real action).

3) What are the potential consequences for China, its people and its economy, of pseudo-science being taken at face value? Are there examples of people who have lost their lives because of bad science?

It has wasted a lot of public funds. For instance, about 10 years ago, a "turning water into oil" scheme gained supports from many government officials and received several hundreds of millions of RMB funding. Recently, it's reported that a "perpetual motion machine", which we first exposed, is supported by local government to apply for 30 millions of RMB funding. When the pseudo-science is commercialized, it's a waste of consumers' money, and can also damage consumers' health if it's sold as drug or dietary supplement.

4) How do you get information about suspected cases of scientific fraud? How do you check if the allegations are correct?

The information usually is sent by email from our readers. 1) I usually don't accept anonymous submissions. The authors should let me know his or her real name and identity, although I won't leak it without his or her permission. 2) The allegation must sound reasonable, and has supporting evidence. I usually do some investigations before publishing the allegations. Most of allegations are about plagiarism and faked resume, which are easily investigated by online search. Sometimes I asked experts' opinions before publishing allegations. 3) I always welcome and publish the rebuttals from the accused and his or her supporters. If an allegation turns out to be unfounded, I will promptly clarify and apologize for it. This has happened several times. So far there is no evidence that the reputation of an innocent person has been damaged by us.

5) What is the general attitude towards your activities in the scientific community? Do Chinese scientists welcome your activities? What has, overall, been the biggest obstacle you have encountered?

I think the scientific community has a mixed feeling regarding my activities. I believe many Chinese scientists would like to live in a better and cleaner academic environment, but the fraud is so widely spread among Chinese academics that most of them have been used to it and many of them don't have clean hands. They usually welcome my activities until their own interests are in danger. Although we have exposed about 700 cases, only a small portion (about 2%) has been dealt with by authorities. Some graduate students later took the responsibility and were expelled. But the professors were rarely punished. The authorities just simply ignore our accusations or even try to cover it up. I think this is the biggest obstacle.

6) Previously, you wrote about a Beijing laboratory called the Huada Gene Research Center. According to reports, the laborary adopted a "nationalistic" approach to gene research, warning against sharing China's DNA with the outside world. Is this a view held by many in the Chinese scientific community? Why? What are the consequences of this?

Yes, I think this has something to do with nationalism, which is also very popular in the Chinese scientific community. Many frauds are committed under the veil of patriotism. China doesn't have enough resource to study her gene diversity and it's essential to have international collaborations. Nationalism can become a big obstacle of scientific development. (Small isolated populations are good targets of genetic research, and the study should be done as soon as possible because this kind of populations is disappearing)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

An Interesting Resume

Professor Zhang Yangde (张阳德) has many significant titles. He is the leader of the National Hepatobiliary & Enteric Surgery Research Center (NHEC), the National Key Laboratory of Nanobiological Technology, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering of Central South University (中南大学), the Institute of Endoscopic Medicine of Central South University, etc. Through his leadership position, he has direct control of billions RMB in research funding.

NHEC has a web site that links to Zhang's various research institutes and activities. It also has an accompanying English version. But if anyone is interested to learn about Zhang's achievements and qualifications, he/she will quickly find out that the links to Zhang's personal information, in both English and Chinese editions, all lead to a "page not found" error. It's been like that since the summer of 2007.

Before that, those links proudly led to Zhang Yangde's personal resume. During the summer, Fang Zhouzi took an interest in Zhang's resume after someone reported that Zhang had obtained a major funding in nano-biological research through improper means. Fang found Zhang's resume more than interesting and wrote a series of articles exposing Zhang's fraudulent claims in it. After that, the resume disappeared from the NHEC site (but they didn't bother to fix the links). A copy of the resume can still be seen at the bottom of Fang's article here.

Apart of obvious language mishaps, Zhang's resume has some serious issues:

The resume claimed that Zhang had obtained a Ph.D. degree in the US during the period of 1987-1991. But it did not specify where the degree was earned. According to the same resume, Zhang was working as a surgeon and professor at Central South University during the time period. It did not seem that Zhang had studied in the US at all.

Zhang's resume also listed an impressive collections of Zhang's titles:
  • Vice-President, International Endoscopist Association (USA)
  • Vice-President, US-Asian International Exchange Foundation
  • Director, Committee of Japanese Explosive Association
  • Director, Committee of International Explosive Association (USA)
  • Director, Committee of International Hepatobiliary & Enteric Surgery Association (UK)
None of these organizations seems to actively exist. They are more likely organizations registered with the sole purpose of boasting resume.

One organization that does seem to exist is the American Association of Nanoscience and Technology, which lists Professor Zhang as its Chairman. Interesting enough that here Zhang was listed as a person from the US, even though he lives and works in China. This AANST co-publishes a quarterly journal Nanoscience with Zhang's institutes in China.

Despite its official-sounding name, AANST was registered in the State of Washington in 2005 by someone named Hongbo Chen. The vast majority of articles published in Nanoscience are originated in China. The magazine boasts a big editorial board, most of them are Chinese names.
Fang Zhouzi carefully examined the non-Chinese names in the list and found a few are American medical doctors, engineers, or even real estate agents, who might have crossed paths with Zhang's previous visits to the US. None of them have expertise in nano-science at all.

Professor Zhang has maintained a dead silence since Fang's exposure, other than taking down his resume page.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Revival of Kowtow

In ancient China, the ultimate respect to one's superior is demonstrated by the protocol of Kowtow (磕头), whereupon one kneels down in front of the superior so that his feet, knees, and hands are all on the ground. He then touches his forehead to the ground multiple times. In extreme cases, how loud one can make the noise by smashing his forehead to the ground is a measurement of his respect, leading to many injuries. The practice was rigorously carried out by generations when men meet the emperors, parents/grandparents, and teachers.

Thankfully, this notorious protocol, along with many others, were abolished during the 1911 revolution and the subsequent modernization of China.

But things are changing these days and not all is for the better. Last Fall, hundreds of students practicing the "Crazy English" staged a public kowtow demonstration to thank their teacher.

Even more bizarre, though, is a display last week on the official television station, CCTV, in which a university professor performed a genuine kowtow to express his appreciation of his old teacher:

The one who did the kowtow is Qian WenZhong (钱文忠), a forty-one year old Professor of History at Fudan University. Qian is supposed to be the last student of Ji Xianlin (季羡林), the receiver of the kowtow. Professor Ji is close to 100 years old. He had spent his career, most of which in Peking University, studying ancient languages such as Sanskrit, as well as the religious and history aspects associated with the language.

In more recent years, Ji somehow gained the public title of a Master of Chinese Scholarship (国学大师) and became the figurehead of everything traditional Chinese. It's one thing to pay due respect to such a senior scholar. But do we need to go so far as to kowtow?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Statute of Limitation on Plagiarism?

The plagiarism case of the new Academician Xie Huaan is getting some public attention. In an article in favor of Xie, the official People's Daily reported a little inside story of how his candidacy was approved by the Chinese Academy of Science.

After receiving reports of Xie's plagiarism, the CAS dispatched a group of three Academicians to Xie's institute for investigation. Their findings were reported to a general meeting of Academicians. The details were not disclosed but it appears that the facts of plagiarism was not in dispute. Fang Rongxian (方荣祥), who headed the investigation group, was quoted saying "there was a heated debate" after the report.

While some Academicians held the opinion that plagiarism should automatically disqualify Xie's candidacy, others disagreed. They pointed to the fact that Xie's plagiarism happened 10 years ago, when "there was no clear-cut regulations on academic integrity in China, especially in the requirement of citing references". Xie's act was not appropriate in today's perspective, but was understandable at that time.

Xie was able to garner more than 2/3 of approval votes from Academicians and thus became one himself.

One had to wonder, in the eyes of those more than 2/3 Academicians, when was a clear-cut regulation on academic integrity in China established? Or what kind of statute of limitation is in practice in today's China?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is There a Cultural Perspective in Plagiarism?

The popular post of Professor Stearns' open letter continues to receive active comments. They are all appreciated. In one of them, anonymous asked:

Has anyone looked at this issue from a cultural perspective? I mean, have you spoken with experts in the academic expectations in countries that might do things differently than done in the US?

Why do Americans always come across so arrogantly - as if the way we do things is the only way... As an ESL instructor, I have come across this issue many times before. One explanation is to consider the differences between assignment expectations - In the US, there is heavy focus put on individual ideas and contributions along with assigning credit to ideas in papers of others. In other cultures, this emphasis on the individual and individual ideas is not as stressed. For students, the goal may be to simply integrate the ideas of others to show professors that there is an understanding of the ideas in a certain field. There is no need to cite where all the ideas come from because the goal of the assignment is not to show individual achievement (look at all these great ideas I thought of or was able to explain) but, I have a good general understanding of the important points of a topic. It is understood that the ideas are not the student's ideas, simply because he/she is a student. Students are not saying that the ideas in the paper are their own ideas... again a Western perspective - the promotion of th eindividual.. Now this would be very different when later in their careers, as they publish in journals, scientists are putting in work that is not their own... but if I understand correctly, you are talking about students... Take a moment to consider that perhaps the circumstances and goals of an assignment may be very culturally different from the Western view..
Nowadays, we are taught to respect other cultures, so much so that we see things we don't approve being done by people that are not "us", we have to tell us to be nice and regard that as their "culture". There must be a culture perspective for them to do such things! But really, this is not the way to respect other cultures. Quite the opposite, this kind of thinking diminishes other cultures as the refuge of immoral behaviors.

It is therefore very fortunate for us to have Fang Zhouzi spearheading this fraud busting campaign. He is as "Chinese-cultured" as anyone I am aware of. Apart of his work in fraud-busting and populating science, he is also (or have been) a proficient writer of poems and essays on Chinese history and culture. In fact, New Thread was originally founded as a ivory-tower-ish refuge for Chinese literature, history, and philosophy discussions.

In this sense, Fang and his supporters are not only defending the integrity of the academic China, but also the integrity of Chinese culture.

As we continue to see in this Blog, plagiarism is certainly not limited to a few students who did not know better. But far from it, it involves numerous professors, some of which had achieved remarkable status as Academicians. We would certainly hope that they did not represent Chinese culture for the rest of us.

In Professor Stearns' particular case, he did not jump out and accuse his students of plagiarism the first time he saw it either. He had lectured his class on this particular issue. He had given his students second and third chances to correct their "mistakes". It was only after such repeated efforts and warnings, when he still received blatant plagiarized papers, he wrote the open letter. His students may have other excuses, but ignorance of the issue is not one of them.

Far from being arrogant, Professor Stearns was courageous enough to see through any perceived culture veils and tell things as they are. This blog, for one, is glad that he did.

Together, Fang Zhouzi and Steve Stearns are showing the world that there are indeed universal values and norms, not just Western or Eastern views. We are all humans, after all.