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?

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