Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beijing Newspaper Questions "Xiao's Procedure"

Another newspaper, Beijing Science and Technology, joined the rank of official media questioning the effectiveness of the so-called "Xiao's Procedure". On December 8, the paper carried a lengthy report on the upcoming litigation case brought on by two patients against Dr. Xiao Chuanguo and his hospital in a local court.

The report cited that the two patients, children with spinal bifida, were misled by the widely reported "85% success rate" and received the procedure three years ago. The procedure proved to be ineffective and they both suffered from serious side effects in their legs.

More significantly, the reporters found the very first patient of Xiao's Procedure, a boy named Xiao Shanshan (小善善). In 2006, Xiao Shanshan underwent Xiao's Procedure and was claimed to a complete success. His case was reported in many newspapers, inspiring hundreds of spinal bifida patients for the procedure. Dr. Xiao Chuanguo himself has also frequently cited these reports as proof of his success.

The reporters got contact with Xiao Shanshan's mother, who unequivocally stated that Xiao Shanshan's surgery has been a failure. The boy is still wearing diapers today. His mother further claimed that, during the time immediately after the surgery, doctors had Xiao Shanshan drank a lot of water whenever there were media coming to visit. They then used electric stimulus to help Xiao Shanshan pee. After they returned home, Xiao Shanshan never gained the ability to pee on his own. The only thing doctors tell them is that things may get better as the boy grows older.

That has obviously not happened yet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

“Xiao's Procedure”: Patient Follow-ups Shock Volunteers

A New Thread netter, "blobfish", has translated a report on the Chinese magazine Science News into English. With permission, here is the English version. The original Chinese version can be read here.

“Xiao Procedure”: Patient Follow-ups Shock Volunteers

Li-Hui Di, Science News (Chinese) Vol. 22, Nov. 23, 2009

One of the volunteers, Lin Liu, conducted a survey on the effectiveness of the “Xiao Procedure”, which was claimed by the inventor, Dr. Chuan-Guo Xiao, to have an overall success rate of 85% for treating the urology disease (spinal bifida) by surgery. Liu was shocked by the post-surgery results in the patients who she visited. During the week of November 10, she visited several patients who underwent the Xiao Procedure. Because the patients lived in different places, Lin Liu had to travel through a number of counties, from Chengdu to Meishan, Deyang, Guangyuan in Sichuan and then from Linfen to Gaoping in Shanxi province, braving the cold weather and heavy snow. Upon her return on November 18, Lin granted an interview to Science News.

“No patient was cured by the Xiao Procedure at all” she said, “On the contrary, the surgery did cause disabilities.”

Lin Liu told the News that she felt the patients looked spiritless and were living in pain. They were told that their diseases could not be cured even at the best hospitals in Beijing. In their hopeless waiting, they saw the propaganda (Xiao Procedure) from the official and most authoritative Chinese medium --- CCTV (the China Central Television). They would trust the reputation of Zhengzhou University Medical School and their experts too.

Lin Liu has visited four patients in total. None of them has been cured by the so-called Xiao Procedure and some of them were even permanently disabled by the surgeries. Two of the patients are still minors. The other two are 19 years old but they were also minors when they underwent spinal surgeries.

The boy patient in Meishan county could still walk by himself and even climbed stairs in the hospital before his surgery, in spite of a bit of deformity in his legs. But after having the Xiao Procedure in September 2007, his legs with parts of nerves cut off started to fester. Two years later, both of his legs had to be amputated at a local hospital of Meishan.

The parents of this boy cherished great hope before the surgery because the hospital had promised them a success rate of 85%, which means most of the patients could get cured. They trusted the doctors because the doctors were kind and looked very trustful. After the boy was already on the operation bed, the parents were asked to sign a consent form right before the surgery, as if it were just a routine procedure. No explanation was offered, so they signed the form without understanding the risk of serious complications at all.

The second child in Shanxi province could walk as well before the surgery, but is disabled now. After the surgery, the muscles of his feet and legs started to atrophy and now his lower extremities are apparently deformed. One year ago before the surgery, it costed 1000 Chinese Yuan a year to buy diapers for his incontinence. But now, not only his legs are disabled, but also his previous incontinence gets more severe. In 2008, he had a medical examination in Jishuitan hospital in Beijing, and was told by the doctor that it was impossible to restore to the same status as before by performing any further surgery on his legs.

The third kid in Deyang county was thought being lucky by his mother initially after the Xiao Procedure. Her kid was still very young and the case was not very severe before surgery. She was happy that the disease seemed to be cured a little and at least did not get worse as others after surgeries. But half a year later, the leg which was operated started to shrink and became thinner.

“The whole journey was very depressing,” Lin Liu said, “It was cruel to ask the patients any questions.”

According to Liu, these kids who were harmed by the Xiao Procedure were less naughty or active, and were not curious about strangers, but kept silence to themselves. Their parents cannot help weeping as telling others their miserable stories after the surgery. “They were waiting with hopes for the surgery, but now their hopes were broken, and eventually they fall in despair. I could feel their pain.” Liu said to the News.

All the kids dropped out of schools and they don’t want to go back. One was in the middle school before Xiao Procedure and gave up school later. He is just a small boy, but he can neither walk nor play as other kids, which is not convenient to him.

Lin Liu also said to News that she would follow up with more patients having the Xiao Procedure. She is collecting more evidences to refute the possible argument in court from the advocators of the Xiao Procedure, which are insisting that these are only individual cases of unsuccessful surgeries. One patient by the name of Little Shanshan advertised by the doctors as a special case is actually a failure too after the Xiao Procedure. “We have been trying our best to find a successful case, but we can’t.” she said.

As for financial situation of the patient family, Lin Liu told the News, the one in Meishan county is able to pay the operation fee, but the parents are very angry at the hospital, because they were cheated and harmed. They want to sue the hospital not just for recouping their expenses. The kid in Deyang, his family has several kids and his operation fee was paid by his relatives. The one in Guangyuan also told her that they want to sue the hospital not just to recover the operation fee of the Xiao Procedure, but they want the justice to be done.

The last one in Shanxi province, his father was a coal miner and is laid-off now. This family is living in the cave of a mountain and has no heating in this cold winter. His father raises 30 pigs and needs to save the heating for the piggy cubs, otherwise they will get sick in the cold. He has finished high school and wanted to make the justice to be done as well. These patients are preparing for suing the hospital who misleads them for the Xiao Procedure with misleading and false statements on the surgical risks and effectiveness.

The Cure Rate of "Xiao's Procedure": 85% or 0%?

A New Thread netter, "lightman", has translated a report on the Chinese magazine Science News into English. With permission, here is the English version. The original Chinese version can be read here.

The cure rate of "Xiao procedure": 85% or 0%?

Di Li-hui, Science News (Chinese) Vol. 22, Nov. 23, 2009

Scinece News Editor: In Volume 20, Oct. 28, this magazine reported the "Xiao reflex arc", the controversial surgical procedure, in article "Who will evaluate Xiao Chuan-guo?". After the article was published, our reporters have learned more information about this procedure.

Peng Jian, a pro bono lawyer, continues his busy work of collecting and collating evidence from different sources. Previously on Oct. 16, the mothers of the two children with spina bifida filed lawsuits against Henan Shen Yuan Urologic Surgery Hospital. At present, the court has set the date for hearing on Oct. 28. Peng Jian revealed that, before the end of the year, it was expected that about twenty more patients (or their kins) would bring their cases to the court.

Investigation restarted

"I realized, for this case, the only effective way was for many patients to come forwards together, especially those who took the operation during the same period." Peng Jian told Science News that he started the effort to collect the names of the patients since 2006 - in this year, Fang Zhou-zi lost a case that was brought forward by Xiao Chuan-guo, for his harsh questioning on the validity of the theory of "Xiao reflex arc", as well as the academic credentials of Xiao, its inventor.

In the summer of 2007, when the names on his list had totaled a few dozens, Peng Jian arranged interns to start interviewing the patients over the phone. "At that time, we successfully got through to more than forty people, and learned that the outcomes of their operations were very bad. In most cases there was virtually no improvement. Some (operations) even led to disability." Liu Lin, who took part in the phone interviews, told Science News.

Further investigation, however, was hindered by difficulties. The main one was the lack of financial support. Although several non-profit organizations expressed the intention to provide supports, none materialized in the end. Yet in the meantime, patients continuously visited the law firm where Peng Jian works, hoping to "accelerate the process of legal aid".

In September 2009, when financial resources became less of a constraint, the investigation was started again. This time, among the 150 plus contacts obtained through the exchanges between the patients, more than eighty successful phone interviews were made, and fifteen were interviewed in person. Peng Jian said, "Now the 'number' is still increasing; we receive at least two, even as many as three or four calls each day, that provide supporting evidence for the case."

Among the patients who have received the "Xiao procedure" and have been contacted so far, the survey finds no example of complete success. The percentage of patients with evident improvements is also low - This is in sheer contrast with the "85% cure rate" advertised by the hospital.

More contradictions

Peng Jian, the lawyer, also found another inexplicable contradiction.

The Neuro-urologic Surgery Research Center at Zhengzhou University issued a certificate to Xiao Chuan-guo on Feb. 28th, 2007, for his application to academian. The certificate claimed: Starting from Jan. of 2006, the Neuro-urological Surgery Research Center at Zhengzhou University had applied the "artificial somato-autonomic reflex arc" technique invented by Professor Xiao Chuan-guo to 117 patients with neurogenic bladder caused by spina bifida or meningomyelocele. Sixty cases were followed up for more than eight months. 85% of the patients have obtained bowel movement and urination completely continent.

Peng Jian found out, however, that it was reported on Aug. 14 of 2006 by Da He Bao:"Yesterday, little Shan-shan received the operation at Zhengzhou Shen Yuan Urological Surgery Hospital ...... the operation for little Shan-shan was the first case in Henan ...... Dong Zi-ming, from Zhengzhou University and the dean of Fundamental Medical College, said: Shan-shan's operation made a Henan record - the first 'Artificial reflex arc' in Henan. And Zhengzhou Shen Yuan Hospital made a national record - this was the first, in our nation, interdisciplinary, neuro-urological surgery, hospital. It was a creation resulted from the effort to integrate research and clinical practices in Zhengzhou University."

In other words, the center conducted the first "Xiao reflex arc" operation as late as Aug. 13th of 2006. It was merely six and a half months away from the time when the center provided the certificate of cure rate for Xiao Chuan-guo, which evidently contradicted with its claim that "Sixty cases were followed up for more than eight months".

Peng Jian and others sought out and visited more than a hundred patients who took the "Xiao reflex arc" operation at Zhengzhou Shen Yuan Urological Surgery Hospital between Aug. 2006 and the first six months of 2007. They found no case of bowel movement and urination completely continent. Instead, the conditions of many patients deteriorated after the operation. Judging from the times of their operations, these patients should at least count for a considerable portion of the "117 cases" mentioned in the certificate issued by the center. This calls into serious question the hospital's claim that "85% of the patients have obtained bowel movement and urination completely continent".

"Let the patients speak out - it is the most objective way"

It is perhaps too shocking to believe the conclusion of the investigation that the cure rate is close to 0% - Is it related to the bias caused by the questions designed by people who are not medical professionals, such as Peng Jian?

"The statistical results obtained through amateur methods, although reviewing is needed prior to official publication, have already shed light on some issues." Professor Liao Li-min at Beijing Bo Ai Hospital commented in this way, "At present, only when the patients speak out can we expose the problems. Justice can be served only through the patients. If the operation succeeds, the patients are the biggest beneficiary; if it fails, the patients are the hardest-hit victims. Let the patients speak out - it is the most objective way."

To Peng Jian, spending money and man-power to interview the patients one by one is the most direct and, perhaps, the only viable way to collect evidence. "Peer review, is possible in theory, but impossible in reality. The current evaluation of the procedure was all made by the 'authorities', including the evaluation of some scientific achievements. Isn't it very difficult to find other experts to draw a different conclusion? Moreover, I find that, the experts in the field are trying to stay away," Peng Jian said.

What Peng Jian said was acknowledged by experts in the field. "We experts don't want to get involved, although we do not like to see what the patients have turned out to be." A well-known expert in urological surgery told Science News, "It is not that we are not willing to (speak out), but that what we say probably won't have any effects. He can say we know nothing. So-called experts and colleagues, or anybody, in his eyes, can be dismissed as worthless."

Comments from peers

Nevertheless, there are experts who, in the end, are brave enough to speak out.

"I use two sentences to describe (my opinion): first, this procedure is absolutely not like what he described, that it has solved the problem of neurogenic bladder; second, the procedure may be effective for some patients, because there are some pertinent indications. Some patients can be treated with this (procedure), but absolutely not all." Professor Song Bo at the Chong Qing the Third Military Medical University held this opinion.

Song Bo indicated that he did not agree to blindly gloss over or promote this type of procedures, because, after all, it was not a business activity. "I am all against the statement that it has solved the problem of neurogenic bladder; I did not really agree with its application for the National Prize for Progress in Science and Technology either." In the meantime, he believes there has not enough evidence so far to assert that the procedure is completely useless. "But his research is not finished yet. What are the indications for the procedure, ultimately, is not even clear. It is unfounded at this stage to say things like a grand problem has been solved." Song Bo said.

"He applied the (neuro-surgical) techniques to urological surgeries. We could see very few clinical patients, and we did not observe his operations either. We simply were not able to make any comments. They brought the patients in. I did not watch the operation. He had no publication at that time. We knew even less about the international evaluation on his procedure. Everything was based on his own words. We could not see any comments from other countries. He said we would not be able to conduct the operation, but why they themselves were not able to popularize it either? We are also wondering." Guo Ying-lu, a professor at the Beijing Medical University and an academian of China Engineering Academy, told Science News.

"When doing science, we should allow mistakes, exploration, and all kinds of efforts. But we should not allow claims such as what has been solved and what has been created, when there is no complete scientific evidence, nor a large amount of evidence-based medical data. They are not scientific statements. I oppose these statements." Song Bo summed up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Michigan Hospital Propagates Myth for "Xiao's Procedure"

The controversial "Xiao's Procedure" has been practiced in at least one hospital in the US on clinical trial basis. In April, 2008, Beaumont Hospitals in Michigan reported some of its initial success. In that press release from the hospital is the following passage:
The research at Beaumont uses a spinal surgery pioneered in China to redirect nerves from the leg to the bladder to gain better control of urination. Beaumont is the only U.S. hospital performing this surgery, and patients have traveled from as far as Utah and Pennsylvania to have it. The Chinese doctor who developed the surgery, Chuan-Guo Xiao, M.D., reports an almost 90-percent success rate and an average time for results of 12-24 months after surgery.
This "almost 90-percent success rate" is solely based on Dr. Xiao Chuanguo's own assertion and has now been seriously questioned in newspaper reports. An independent investigation has so far not been able to identify or confirm a single success case. Instead, it recovered numerous cases with severe side effects.

Separately, in an online forum on spina bifida conditions, a patient posted a letter from the same Beaumont Hospitals in response for his inquiry of the procedure. The letter repeated the same assertion from Dr. Xiao Chuanguo himself without any qualification. Furthermore, the letter states:
In China, this procedure is now standard of care. Dr. Xiao has taught this procedure to surgeon's at all the major hospitals in China.
This is totally a lie. As of now, there is only one local hospital in Zhengzhou, China, which performs this procedure routinely. It is far from being a "standard of care".

Friday, November 13, 2009

OSAIC Calls for Donation to Support Victims

Issues of academic integrity normally are confined within the elite community of academics and scholars, rarely affecting the common people. However, when an unproven surgical procedure is practiced on patients without proper disclosure of its risks, the results could be devastating.

Dr. Xiao Chuanguo's procedure is such an example. While Xiao Chuanguo and his hospital claim that the socalled "Xiao's Procedure" has a success rate of 85%, evidences are now emerging that the number is most likely a lie. A recent telephone survey of 74 former patients conducted by Fang Zhouzi's lawyer finds that in more than 73% of cases the procedure had no effect at all. Worse, 39% of them had severe and even crippling side effects.

Most of these patients are from poor families who had spent their life's savings for the procedure. Some of them intend to sue hospital for false advertisement, but are lacking resources to do so.

The Organization of Scientific and Academic Integrity in China
has established a new fund intended to help the innocent victims of academic fraud. The primary purpose of the fund is to provide financial aid in legal procedures to the families who can not afford it. OSAIC is calling for donations.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Xiao's Procedure" Questioned in China

The good doctor Xiao Chuanguo is in the news again, but this time it was all good for him. For the first time in years, a magazine in China reported that his famed "Xiao's Procedure" might not be what it was previously claimed to be.

The Science News (科学新闻) published an article titled "Who Can Evaluate Xiao Chuanguo?" on October 27. It reported that several families of the patients who had received Xiao's treatment a couple of years ago are now suing their hospital for false claims. A hospital in Henan Province had claimed that the success rate of the procedure is 85%. Yet these families could not find a single successful case within their ranks. Many patients are suffering from serious side effects from the operations.

The report also carried more damaging information. Through interviews to a few other doctors involved in the initial evaluation of Dr. Xiao's procedure, it revealed that none of them are qualified to provide a real, technical evaluation. They practically rubber-stamped on the decision based on the name-recognition of Xiao's adviser, Xiao's self-claimed fame abroad, and Xiao's self-claimed success rate alone. The magazine pointed out that there is so far no third-party study on the success rate.

The fact that Xiao Chuanguo had repeated sued Fang Zhouzi in court also played an important role. The magazine cited an unnamed surgeon from a Beijing hospital as saying that "there won't be a single expert who is willing to comment" Xiao's work. Everyone is scared of Xiao's bullying conduct. As if to underscore this point, the article listed two experts who had refused to be interviewed for this story.

After a period of staying low-profile, it is likely that the dispute surrounding the so called "Xiao's Procedure" will be heating up again in China.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Proclaimer for each Criticism Article

There are disclaimers, and there are proclaimers.

Fang Zhouzi challenged the action by a local Wuhan court to deduct money from his wife's bank account without their knowledge on two accounts: a) neither he nor his wife had received any notice on the impending action; b) he and his wife had a formal agreement on the separation of their financial accounts. Based on these facts, the action by the local court is both inappropriate and illegal.

His challenge was predictably rejected. The court responded that a) they had previously sent out notifications (never mind that they were not received by their recipients) and b) Since the beneficiary Xiao Chuanguo did not have any pre-knowledge of the financial agreement between Fang Zhouzi and his wife, the agreement is declared as non-applicable to the case.

Absurd as the second point sounds, it actually might have some base in the vague language of the Chinese marital law, whose applicability to this case is questionable.

As a measure of defiance and avoid a similar scenario in the future, Fang Zhouzi is making a public proclaimer to "all those who had been and shall be criticized by him" that "Fang Zhouzi and his wife had already agreed to separate their financial matters. Those who are criticized by Fang Zhouzi shall have no right to dispatch local court officials to seize the legal properties of Fang Zhouzi's wife."

This proclaimer will be headlined in every future articles of his that criticizes any person, until the local Wuhan court returns the seized property.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Another Academician Who Plagiarized

Several days ago, Fang Zhouzi received copies of two published papers from an alert netter. The two papers were almost identical word-by-word, including the titles, abstracts, contents, and cited references. The only difference was an extra half-sentence added in the abstract of the latter paper. The first paper was published in December, 1998, by a pair of authors in Hunan University (湖南大学). The latter paper was published in September, 2003 by a different pair of authors from the same school. It was obvious that the second paper was a blatant practice of plagiarism.

One of the authors of the second paper was Zhu Yinghao (朱英浩), who is a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He had also been a professor at Hunan University starting in 2000, during which the second paper was published. However, he could not have been part of the research that was first published two years before his arrival there.

After Fang Zhouzi publicized the plagiarism case, he received two more papers that showed blatant plagiarism committed by the same academician and his co-author. One copied from a book and another from another paper, each with only minor text modifications.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Unlikely Victim"?

UPI Asia reported the news that Fang Zhouzi's New Threads is recently blocked in China, as "an unlikely victim of China's censorship".

In reality, the site has been blocked more often than not. Some of its long-running mirror sites have also been blocked this time around, apparently for the safety and "harmony" ahead of the coming National Day celebration.

New mirror sites are being set up to get around the censorship.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Local Chinese Court Steals Money from Fang Zhouzi's Wife

One of the most significant fraud case exposed by Fang Zhouzi was that involving Professor Xiao Chuanguo, a self-claimed world-famous urologist. The case first came to light in September, 2005, when Xiao Chuanguo was being nominated to become an Academician. Fang Zhouzi publicly accused Xiao Chuanguo for having engaged in various acts of exageration in his credentials.

Xiao Chuanguo's Academician candidacy was then denied by Chinese Academy of Science. Xiao Chuanguo blamed his lose entirely on Fang Zhouzi's words and sued the later in local courts in Wuhan, Beijing, as well as New York.

He won his case in Wuhan, whose court issued a few ridiculous justification for its verdict that had become running jokes on the Internet, such as the definition of "international journal," the validity of Xiao Chuanguo's award claim, and a procedure supposed to be named after him. The case gained its dramatic status after Xiao Chuanguo published a foul-mouthed open letter of his own and hundreds of Chinese scholars co-signed an open letter to support Fang Zhouzi.

After losing his appeal, Fang Zhouzi has refused to obey the court order of apologizing to Xiao Chuanguo and paying a fine. The case seemed to have disappeared from public view, especially after many officials of that local court, including the judge in the case, were later disciplined for corruption charges. Fang Zhouzi had assumed that the case was forgotten.

Until now.

Messages posted by Xiao Chuanguo's well known pseudo-name showed up in online forums lately, boasting that he had received monetary judgement from Fang Zhouzi. It was not until Fang Zhouzi was alerted of the messages when he discovered that a sum of more than 40,000 Yuan (5,840 USD) has disappeared from his wife's private bank account. Upon inquiry, the bank confirmed that they transferred the money at the order of the Wuhan local court.

The unusual and stealth way that the court has taken the money both surprised and angered Fang Zhouzi, as well as many of his supporters on New Threads. Fang Zhouzi vowed to fight for this unlawful case. He explained that he and his wife have maintained independent financial records and his wife is never involved in his efforts of exposing frauds that led to his various court troubles.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Professor Fined for his Language

Two years ago, Professor Zhang Boting (张博庭) wrote a post in his blog answering a newspaper report, which criticizes hydro-power development. Being an expert on the subject, Zhang Boting rebuffed the arguemtns presented in the newspaper article and claimed the reporter as "ignorant and shameless" (无知无耻). In the article, he also labeled the reporter as a retard (弱智).

The reporter sued and won the case. Yesterday a lcoal court in Beijing sided with the reporter and decided that Zhang Boting has commited personal insult and therefore is liable to defamation. He was ordered to openly apologize and pay a fine of 2,000 Yuan (290 USD).

In the court proceddings, Zhang Boting defended himself by saying that the langauge was a precise description of the said reporter. The court did turn down the plantiff's initial request of 10,000 Yuan for emotional distress. There is no word if Zhang Boting is going to appeal.

Zhang Boting has been a frequent writer for New Thread, using a pen name 水博.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Did Einstein Believe in God?

That's the title of Fang Zhouzi's new book which just became available in China. The book has a subtitle "Fang Zhouzi Explains Famous Puzzling Cases in the History of Science" and is a collection of many essays and columns by the author previously published in newspapers and web sites.

In the Preface titled as "Scientists are humans too," the author made it clear that the book is about many controversies surrounding famous scientists and their discoveries of the past, some of which involved issues of personal integrity.

The book comes with high praise and recommendation by several famous Chinese scientists including Rao Yi.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

University Vice President Loses His Degree for Plagiarism

More than two years ago, alert readers of New Thread have uncovered two separate plagiarism cases committed by Huang Qing (黄庆), vice president of Southwest Jiaotong University (西南交通大学).

A couple months after the public exposure, the school received a formal complain near the end of 2007. It was not until last week that they have reached a verdict that Huang Qing had indeed committed plagiarism. On July 10, the school decided to revoke the Ph.D. degree it had given Huang Qing in 2000 and his qualification in advising graduate students.

There was no decision on his position of vice presidency or faculty status, which the school said it would be dealt with separately in the future. The school did however say that Huang Qing is welcome to stay in school and presumably work in some teaching capacity.

Huang Qing himself has denied all wrongdoings.

Danwei has previously reported this case.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Zhengzhou University Sacks an Associated Dean

According to China Youth Daily, Zhengzhou University (郑州大学) has recently dismissed the Associated Dean of its News and Mass Media College in a disciplinary action against fraud.

The associated dean, Professor Jia Shiqiu (贾士秋), was recently exposed for having used falsified personal information and publication record to gain her professorship three years ago. In her application, she had listed articles and books for which she was not even listed as an author or contributor.

Jia Shiqiu was also stripped of her professorship and presumably fired from the school.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Youngest Mayor" is a Plagiarist

In June, the Internet in China was abuzz that a twenty-nine years old had become the mayor of a city in Hubei Province. Zhou Senfeng (周森峰) thus became known as the "youngest mayor" of the country.

While many people tried to find out if Zhou Senfeng's rise was benefited from family background or connections (there did not appear to be any), Fang Zhouzi examined his published papers and concluded that Zhou Senfeng was a plagiarist while as a student in Tsinghua University.

Fang Zhouzi reported that Zhou Senfeng published only two papers while studying for this masters degree. In one of them, two sections that makes up the core of the paper were essentially a copy of a paper from someone else. The second paper, on the other hand, is made up by plagiarized content from various different sources.

Commenting on the case, Fang Zhouzi pointed out that one of the biggest reasons that Zhou Senfeng was selected as the mayor was his Masters degree, which is now proven to be a fraud. This shows that Zhou Senfeng has serious character flaws and is unfit for his position.

In response, Zhou Senfeng denied the charge by saying that he only used other papers as references. But he refused to provide more details in defending himself.

Fang Zhouzi's Interview on Xinmin Weekly

Recently, Fang Zhouzi had an interview with the Shanghai newspaper Xinmin Weekly, summarizing his thought on the current status of the integrity issues in China. Here is a rough and partial translation of the interview:

Q: Your "For the Record" site has opened almost ten years, your book Ulcer has also been published for eight years now. But ... in these one to two years, more and more incidences of fabricated papers being exposed. Does this prove that the amount of scientific misconduct is getting worse in China? Is the problem more serious here than in other countries?

Fang Zhouzi: It's only because the media is paying more attention now. It can't prove that the misconduct has gotten worse. My own feeling is that, the most serious period is perhaps a few years ago. In more recent years, we have had media attention and a few disciplinary cases, some people were deterred and cases of scientific misconduct showed a downward trend. But the problem is still more serious here than in other countries. It is wide-spread and multi-faceted. So, I would rather called it corruption.

Q: Why do students plagiarize in their degree dissertations?

Fang Zhouzi: There are several reasons for this. One is that we have problems in our education. Students did not receive proper teaching in scientific behavior and ethics. Rather, they were led to believe that "all papers were copies" (天下文章一大抄). Students in elementary and middle schools were encouraged to copy sample articles while doing their compositions. Another aspect is that the teachers have problems. They have too many students and social activities to pay attention to their students. Or they don't have sufficient research abilities themselves to provide guidance to their students. Some teachers are plagiarizers themselves and their students are just following examples. Another reason is the dissertation standard system. Undergraduate students usually have no time or ability to do research, it is not necessary for them to write dissertations for a degree. If you force them to do it, you are making them to plagiarize. It is unnecessary to impose a hard limit on the time to complete a dissertation for a Ph. D. degree. If/when the research did not pan out, and the student could not complete the dissertation on time, you are then force them to plagiarize.

Q: Some colleges are now using software to detect plagiarism in students' dissertations, what do you think of it?

Fang Zhouzi: This kind of software is only a supplementary tool for detecting plagiarism but can not be a standard itself. Whether a paper is plagiarized needs to be judged by human. Some schools put a standard that it is only plagiarism when the software finds more than 30% in similarities. That is ridiculous. What about 10% or 20% in the most important passages? In fact, if just a few sentences are copied, it is plagiarism.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ministry of Health Recommends Fang Zhouzi's Book

In yet another sign that Fang Zhouzi is gaining recognition and influence, the Ministry of Health recently included one of his books, Achieving Health Scientifically (科学成就健康), in its official list of recommended books on health.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rao Yi Reports on a Fraud Case

In his online blog, Rao Yi reported a recent case of scientific fraud in a Shanghai institute of the Chinese Academy of Science.

About a month ago, the Journal of Neuroscience informed the institute that a paper authored by a researcher of the institute contained practices of scientific fraud. After investigating for a month, the institute informed the Journal of their findings. It decided to fire the researcher and close the laboratory within a year.

Rao Yi praised for the swift and strict disciplinary action. However, he did not mention the name of the accused or disclose any details of the case.

Academician Accuses Former Student for Plagiarism

It is quite unusual for cases of academic integrity to be discussed in open media in China. Therefore it is quite amazing when an Academician from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Lu Daopei (陆道培), called for a press conference to accuse his former student for plagiarism. The accused is now the head of a research institute of the People's Hospital affiliated with Peking University by the name of Huang Xiaojun (黄晓军).

Lu Daopei alleged that Huang Xiaojun's 2008 award-winning research in stem cell was a direct derivative of Lu Daopei's earlier research in 2006, in which Huang Xiaojun was also a participant. Lu Daopei accused Huang Xiaojun for plagiarizing the earlier research as well as falsifying data in the later work.

Chinese Medical Association, which awarded a first class prize for Huang Xiaojun's work asked Peking University to investigate, which found Huang Xiaojun innocent. Lu Daopei organized an expert team of his own which concluded that Huang Xiaojun has committed multiple fraud including plagiarism and falsifying data.

Lu Daopei said in the press conference that it is a last resort of his to appeal to public on this matter. He hoped that a third-party investigation could help clarify the matter.

"A Chinese Scam"

Europe's Life Science journal Lab Times reported a case of plagiarism with an analysis article titled "A Chinese Scam." Its byline summarizes the story:
Fred Schaper from the Technical University of Aachen, Germany, gives a talk at a Keystone Meeting. A couple of months later he discovers the figures he presented in a fresh paper. The author is a Chinese who also attended the meeting.
The article chronicles the entire incident. Fred Schaper had given a speech of his research at the Keystone Meeting in January 2007 and then, on August 6, 2008, he found a preview of a to-be-published paper contained several figures that appeared to be his used during the speech. The authors of the later paper were a group of Chinese from Lanzhou University, led by Yang Jinbo (杨金波).

Fred Schaper launched an investigation effort that involved the editors of the journal Cellular Signalling, the organizers of the Keystone Meeting. Yang Jinbo had first responded by claiming that he had repeated Schaper's experiments himself, obtained the same results, but neglected to cite Schaper's work. But confronted with strong evidence, Yang Jinbo eventually caved in and "admitted that all the figures in question had indeed been pirated." Someone had downloaded the data from the computer at the Keystone Meeting for them. He promised to destroy all data and promised never to work in this field ever again.

There seems to be no mention of this incident in the Chinese media. A search on the schoo's web site failed to turn up any hits on the name Yang Jinbo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shanghai University Disciplines a Professor

Shanghai University (上海大学) has recently completed its investigation of professor Chen Zhanyun (陈湛匀) and concluded that he had committed serious plagiarism in two of his published papers. The investigation found that the papers contain 25% and 30% of plagiarized text, respectively.

Chen Zhanyun was stripped all of his committee appointments and managerial positions. However, it looks like his academic position was not affected.

Chen Zhanyun's academic credentials had been previously challenged on New Threads last year.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Anhui Agricultural University Dismisses its Vice President for Plagiarism

Without any fanfare, a local newspaper reported that Anhui Agricultural University (安徽农业大学) has dismissed its Vice President Li Xiaoming (李晓明). The school did not provide any details.

Since last August, XYS has reported that Li Xiaoming has committed serious plagiarism in his published papers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


(Shameless commercial break...)

My new book, "Standoff at Tiananmen," a narrative history of the 1989 student movement in China, has been self-published and available on Amazon. If you are interested, please go to my other blog Standoff at Tiananmen for more details. I would be glad to send you a review copy if you provide me a mailing address through the contact in my profile.

Thank you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Christian Science Monitor Reports Zhejiang University Case

Christian Science Monitor reported the dismissal of three professors at Zhejiang University and headlined the case as "China Targets an Academic Culture of Cut-and-Paste."

The paper quoted Yale Professor Stephen Stearns who had famously ignited a debate of plagiarism in China by an open letter. It quoted him saying "There is a long tradition of plagiarism in Chinese universities. Some Chinese professors actually teach their students to plagiarize." He also indicated that he and his colleagues at Yale do not take recommendation letters from Chinese professors seriously.

Fang Zhouzi was also quoted in the story and described as "dubious about the value of" government's efforts to keep the academic field clean.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zhejiang University Dismisses Three Faculty in Scandal

The scandal at Zhejiang University continues to receive much media attention in China. After firing a junior researcher identified as the main culprit of the scandal, the school dismissed another faculty who was in charge of the research group and was the correspondence author in most of the papers in question. It also said that it will not renew its employment contract with the Academician Li Lianda.

In an interview with a newspaper, Fang Zhouzi stated that he was not satisfied with the displinary actions delivered so far. He thought the school did not go far enough to punish others who were also implicated in the scandal. But nontheless, he considered the resolution a step in the right direction.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Science Journal Reports Zhejiang University Scandal

Under its "Scientific Misconduct" column and with the title "Retractions Put Spotlight on China's Part-Time Professor System," Science reported the fraudulent case recently uncovered at Zhejiang University.

The report provides an extensive summary of the case involving academician Li Lianda and quoted a Peking University professor as saying "I don't think Zhejiang University handled the case properly" in investigating this case.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Whither OMP?

In early 2007, the milk producer Mengniu (蒙牛) started selling a new, high-end milk product branded as Telunsu (特仑苏). It advertised it as containing a new additive OMP, or Osteoblast Milk Protein, which benefits bone growth in human body. It was hailed as a breakthrough.

On March 23, 2007, Fang Zhouzi wrote in a newspaper column that such a claim could not be valid. The term OMP appeared to be an invented name that did not exist in scientific literature. Even if such a protein existed, he said, it would not have any benefit as no proteins could survive the digestion process to affect bone growth in human bodies.

A month later, Fang Zhouzi learned from a patent application by Mengniu that the so-called OMP is most likely to be IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factors, a well known protein. While IGF-1 exists naturally in milk products, it appeared that Mengniu is also using it as an additive to "enhance" the value of their product. Indeed, the Telunsu brand is selling at a much higher price than regular milk. However, milk with rich IGF-1 content could also impose health risk such as cancer.

As the Telunsu milk is steadily gaining market share in China, Fang Zhouzi's warning was ignored. For its part, Mengniu denies that OMP is IGF-1 but refuses to disclose its chemical composition. The company insists that it is a product of their own innovation.

It took almost two years. On February 11, 2009, the government finally issued an order to Mengniu to stop using the additive. The order stated that neither OMP nor IGF-1 has been approved as a food additive and their safety is not established.

Mengniu changes its story in an instant. It now claims that OMP is not IGF-1, but another well-known protein called MBP, or Milk Basic Protein. Ignoring its previous claim of its own innovation, the company now says that MBP has been widely used in Japan, America, and Europe for decades.

However, Fang Zhouzi insists that he has enough evidence that Mengniu's OMP is indeed IGF-1. Meanwhile, the Telunsu brand milk is being pulled from supermarkets in many major cities, although no formal recall has been issued. Mengniu's stock is also suffering major losses.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Scandal at Zhejiang University

Last October, a netter wrote to New Thread to report a case of multiple submission in Zhejiang University (浙江大学). It was then expanded into forgery as papers describing different experiments were found to contain the exact same set of data. By December, another netter did a series of study of papers published by the group and concluded that massive and systematic unethical practices exist, including forgery, plagiarism, and multiple submissions. The case finally received media attention this week after several international journals recalled the questionable papers. As of now, the number of questionable papers has reached 16.

The group in question is led by an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering by the name of Li Lianda (李连达) and concentrated in the study of certain traditional Chinese medicines. Li Lianda claims that he lives in Beijing and only travels to Zhejiang University sporadically and therefore did not know the existence of these papers, although all the papers bear his name and some identified him as the communicating author. He also accused the exposure of the case as a conspiracy by his rivals.

The president of Zhejiang University disclosed results of its investigation, which completely exonerated Li Lianda. The investigation put the entire responsibility of wrongdoings on a junior researcher who it says has published the papers without the knowledge of his coauthors. The junior researcher wrote a lengthy self-criticizing report on his own and was fired by the university.

The case has received such attention that Fang Zhouzi was featured on the evening news by Beijing Television. The video can be seen (with IE only) here. Fang Zhouzi does not believe that such a massive fraud could be done entirely by a single individual without the knowledge of his colleagues. International journals usually require the signatures of all coauthors during the submission process.

Cloning Human Embryos Exposes its Researcher

"A research team at Shandong Stem Cell Engineering Research Center has successfully cloned five human blastulas." Thus reported China Daily. The result was hailed as a major breakthrough in stem cell research, at least in China. However, it becomes immediately clear that the principle researcher of this project is more interesting in media discussion than the result itself.

Li Jianyuan(李建远), the chief of the laboratory which performed the research, has a resume that included a Ph.D. from a "Nobel Medical Institute" in America. At first, Li Jianyuan has refused to disclose the exact name of the institute in English as many interested parties, including Fang Zhouzi, failed to locate any accredited school bearing a similar name. More recently, Li Jianyuan produced a certificate bearing the name cited above, which purported to locate in California. However, an exhaustive search in California state record database failed to show such an institute either. Based on other relevant information, Fang Zhouzi concluded that the certificate is most likely a product by a Chinese-American individual who did not even bother to formally register his "school."

It is also established that Li Jianyuan has never traveled abroad and therefore could not have received Ph. D. training in America. Li Jianyuan explained that the degree was a result of a research paper he submitted along with some recommendation letters. He claimed that he has not taken it seriously himself either. Yet it did not stop him from using the Ph.D. title in his various versions of resumes and signature lines in his published papers.

As more information about Li Jianyuan surfaced, it became clear that Li Jianyuan not only did not possess any Ph.D. degree, he has likely forged a master degree certificate as well. In fact, chances are that he had never received a four-year regular college education. It is amazing to see how far he had achieved in China's academia with such a spotty history.

Talking about Shi Yigong's Salary

There is a usual routine in Chinese media in praising patriotic scholars returning from abroad to serve the motherland. Inevitably, they are described as giving up privileged academic positions, luxury houses, and fancy cars for a presumably much lesser environment in China. The description might have had some truth in it in the past couple of decades but it has gradually lost its base as China is more and more willing to spend big money luring oversea talents.

The most recent media star Professor Shi Yigong is being described in the same manner. Before returning to China, Shi Yigong was the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of molecular biology at Princeton University. So it is true that he had given up a lot in returning. He was made a professor and associated dean at Tsinghua University, one of the most privileged school in China. As the media campaign on his sacrifice continued, his salary at Tsinghua University became the talk of town.

A professor at the same college as Shi Yigong at Tshinghua University disclosed that Shi Yigong's salary is about 1.7 million RMB, which is roughly more than 200,000 in USD. If this figure is true, his salary will be at least compatible with what he earned at Princeton and more than ten times of other professors in the same Chinese school. So much for the sacrifice.

The issue received world-wide attention. A news report by Nature initially quoted the 1.7 million figure in describing how China is attracting top talents. The story drew a firestorm in its online comments and the magazine was forced to apologize and revise its content to exclude the exact figure.

Shi Yigong's colleague at Peking University, Professor Rao Yi, claimed that his salary is actually less than one million in RMB. Shi Yigong and Tsinghua University chose to remain silent. Fang Zhouzi is advocating for an open policy regarding salaries in public schools. He used examples of public schools in America disclosing professor salaries to illustrate that concerns of privacy do not apply in such a situation. Tsinghua University, like pretty much every other school in China, is a public and national institute.

Lately, Fang Zhouzi had been invited to present his case in a radio talk show.

Friday, January 23, 2009

OSAIC Concludes Book Donation Drive

OSAIC has recently concluded the book donation drive. 4,340 copies of Fang Zhouzi's best-seller Achieving Health Scientifically were sent to 418 public libraries throughout China, many of them in rural areas.

The book donation drive was sponsored by OSAIC in conjunction with Fang Zhouzi and his book publisher in Beijing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

1,000 Cheaters in State Exams

The national civil service entrance exam is instituted in China for the selection of civil servants working for the government. In recent years, civil servant have become a very attractive job for its stability, salary, and generous pension and benefits, especially in the time of economic downturn and uncertainly. The exam is therefore becoming ultra-competitive.

The official China Daily announced that about a thousand cheaters have been busted in recent exams in Liaoning Province and Beijing. The cheaters wore wireless mini earplugs to receive transmitted information and/or bought standard answers from outside companies.

"Cheaters' names and identification card numbers will be put into a database to serve as a recruiting reference for central and local governments," reported China Daily.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rao Yi Speaks Out on Shi Yigong's Grant Application

While the official media kept silent on the controversy of Shi Yigong's grant application yet hailing him as the new patriotic hero, Professor Rao Yi offered his personal views on the controversy. In fact, Rao Yi blamed the deafening silence of the grant authority as being unfair to Shi Yigong.

Rao Yi asserts that only the grant authority has the right to interpret its own rules and its applicability to Shi Yigong's application. From his own personal contacts, he learned that the committee in charge of the grants had conducted a thorough investigation after Fang Zhouzi's accusation. Both Shi Yigong and his Tsinghua University had been truthful and forthcoming on his job status throughout the investigation. The committee took votes on the issue and concluded that Shi Yigong was qualified for the grant even when his case apparently violated the rule on the letters.

The committee appeared to think that there is no need to offer any explanation for its decision either to the accuser or the public. Rao Yi disagreed. He felt the need to publish what he knew so that Shi Yigong would not be unfairly blamed for knowingly violating a rule.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shi Yigong Becomes a Media Star in China

A few days into the new year, a media blitz unfolded in China in praise of Tsinghua Professor Shi Yigong. It involves the official Xinhua News Agency, CCTV, People's Daily, Guangming Daily, and Economics Daily, i.e., all the heavy weights under the direct control of the central government. The Economics Daily cited Shi Yigong's claim that "Returning home country to work, I feel my career has more meaning". Guangming Daily listed three personal goals from Shi Yigong himself. People's Daily priasied Shi Yigong as the model for all returning oversea Chinese scholars. The syndicated media campaign for a scientist is quite unusual. It looks like Shi Yigong is being molded into the new patriotic hero of China.

None of the media reports mentioned the controvercy of Shi Yigong's grant application and subsequet approval. With all the praise for his patriotism, they did not bother to point out that Shi Yigong is, in fact, an American citizen.

What they did mention, however, was the fact that Shi Yigong has been a recipent of the Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award, billed as "one of the most prestigous awards in biology". In reality, the award is a common one aimed for young scientists.