Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Chemistry World China, a British scientific journal, reports:
Academic controversy leads to bloodshed
By Hepeng Jia and Tao He/Beijing, China
The imprisonment of a professor of urology after attacks on critics at has led to louder calls to shake up China’s academic community.
On 8 November, Beijing’s Intermediary Court sentenced Xiao Chuanguo of Wuhan-based Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) to five and half months’ imprisonment for hiring thugs to assault an outspoken science fraud buster - Fang Shimin, who goes by
well-known pen name Fang Zhouzi - and Fang Xuanchang, science editor of Caijing Magazine.
The two victims are highly dissatisfied with the slight penalty, while Xiao’s lawyer argues he should not be found guilty and imprisoned because the attack was not serious enough. Accompanying the debate is an increasing concern surrounding academic ethics in China.
‘It is a dangerous time for academic ethics,[in China]’ says Huang Boyun, president of Changsha, China-based Central South University, at the annual meeting of China Association for Science and Technology (Cast) in early November.
The assault against Fang Xuanchang took place in June, when Fang’s skull was cracked by three men brandishing steel sticks. He lost nearly two litres of blood. Two months later, Fang Shimin was attacked with hammer and chili water, but luckily escaped with only minor injuries.
On 21 September, Beijing police announced that the attackers had been detained and the individual suspected of hiring them was identified as Xiao.
A festering wound
In September 2005, Fang published an article criticising Xiao's candidacy for membership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). In it he explained that CAS members must work full-time in China, but that Xiao worked both at HUST and New York University Medical Center, in the US.
Fang, who obtained his PhD in biochemistry from Michigan State University in the US before becoming well-known in China after starting a website to expose scientific misconduct, also claimed that Xiao had exaggerated his academic achievements by including presentations listed in conference proceedings among his international publications.
Xiao is mainly famous for his bold operation to rebuild sections of patients’ nervous systems to return the ability to control urination to those who were paralysed or suffered some other
neurological complaint that affected this ability. But Fang questioned the achievement, saying there was little evidence supporting the use of the procedure.
Fang Xuanchang then led investigations into Xiao’s case published in China News Weekly in 2007 and Science News Magazine in 2009, where he had been science editor and executive chief editor respectively.
In 2006, a court in Wuhan, where HUST is located, ruled that Fang had libelled Xiao. In 2007, however, Beijing Intermediary Court ruled that Fang’s articles against Xiao constituted normal academic criticism, and the court should not be involved in the debate. CAS members voted against Xiao joining the organisation in 2005.
Fang Shimin, meanwhile, continued to question Xiao’s claims, and a series of investigative news articles criticising Xiao’s medical procedure were published by Fang Xuanchang and other journalists in late 2009 and early 2010.
According to police, Xiao began to plan the assault in early 2010 and he spent Yuan100,000 (US$15,000) to hire the attackers. But in court Xiao said that he only wanted to teach the two small lessons, rather than cause bloody injuries or even murders as claimed by the two.
This escalation from academic controversy to physical attack in China has caused increased calls among both the public and academics for better discipline in science communities.
‘I hope this case can become a good chance for the fight against academic misconduct,’ Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of the journal Science, said during his visit to China in mid October.
According to Alberts, the key to improve academic ethics is to establish a system to investigate claimed misconduct in a timely manner and punish wrongdoers.
Chinese science Minister Wan Gang promised at a symposium in Shanghai in mid November that his ministry will take a zero tolerance approach to academic plagiarism and fabrication.
In 2006, the Ministry of Science and Technology set up an academic disciplining office. This facility has been replicated in government departments like Education Ministry, National Natural Science Foundation and CAS.
However, Fang says it is unlikely to have an effect overnight. ‘The key is not to claim zero tolerance over and over again, but to give real punishment. There are more and more cases of misconduct being exposed, but only a few of them get real punishment.’
On Fang’s website, famous for exposing and criticising academic misconduct and pseudoscience, allegations of more than 1000 cases of academic misconduct have been made in the past 10 years, but only a tiny proportion of them – often first reported by media – were officially investigated.
In Xiao’s case, a Ministry of Health spokesperson said in early November that his medical procedure, despite having been carried out on more than 4000 patients, has not been approved for commercial operation.
‘But the ban did not appear before this, despite the media and I repeatedly reporting the poor outcomes of the operation and hyped claims to the ministry,’ Fang Shimin told Chemistry World.
While the government has not done enough to vet academics as appealed by Fang and others, Fang himself has been hailed by the public as a hero since being attacked.
But some, mainly academics, question Fang’s efforts against academic misconduct, saying he could not judge academic fields outside his specialism or criticising his firm denial of traditional Chinese medicine.
‘The efforts against academic misconduct by Fang and others have hidden the true problem of Chinese science, which is lack of real innovative research. The attention should be focused on the scientific and education systems that brew innovations, says a scientist at Tsinghua University, who would not be named.
But Fang says that he would prefer the authorities – such as ministries of science, health and education – instead of him and his website to take more systematic work to stamp out misconduct, “But they have done too little,” he says.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Nature Medicine's The Yearbook, which "list key people who made headlines this year, either by standing up for what they saw as right or by stopping what they felt was wrong," included an entry for Fang Zhouzi this year:
Fang Shimin: Least likely to back down Chinese bloggerShimin has investigated and exposed numerous counts of scientific misconduct. But even writing under a pen name ('Fang Zhouzi') did not protect him from a physical attack, in which he says he was chased down by assailants wielding a hammer. Shimin suffered only minor injuries, but the incident brought attention to the perils faced by journalists reporting on fraud in China.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
In the aftermath of Dr. Xiao Chuanguo's conviction for attacks, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology decided to impose severe disciplinary actions on Dr. Xiao Chuanguo, who is an employee at the school and its affiliated Xiehe Hospital. The school announced today that they had decided on November 6 to strip all administrative and teaching positions Xiao Chuanguo held in the school and hospital.
But the school stopped short of expelling him altogether. Dr. Xiao Chuanguo also received an administrative censure and a one-year probation. It is unclear how the probation would carry out.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The research journal Cancer Biology & Therapy retracted a paper recently in a case that was described as "nearly everything dishonest authors can do to doctor a manuscript, these authors did" by the web site Retraction Watch.
The paper in question have 5 authors, all from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (华中科技大学). According to the journal, at least 2 of the authors were not aware of their involvement in this paper, including one that is supposed to be the corresponding author. The other authors used a fake email address for the corresponding author to intercept any communication.
Besides such oddities, editors of the journal also found one figure in the paper is a re-publication of data in an earlier paper. "The authors have misrepresented their data as being from 2 separate cell lines," concluded the editors in the retraction notice.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
The following is a Science report in "Research Ethics," published on it's 11/5 edition. A Chinese version is also available here.
Questions From China Snag U.S. Trial Of Nerve-Rerouting Procedure
SCIENCE VOL 330 5 NOVEMBER 2010 Published by AAAS
A running 5-year medical brawl in China has spilled over into Michigan, where it has delayed a clinical trial about to enroll patients. The trial, based at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, aims to surgically reroute the nerves of spina bifida patients to give them control of their bladder. Principal investigator Kenneth Peters confirmed last week that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)—which is funding the work—has asked for a review.
The urologist who invented the nerve-rerouting procedure, Xiao Chuan-Guo, has claimed phenomenal results in China—including an 87% success rate for 110 spina bifida patients at their 1-year follow-up visits. But the controversy surrounding his work is phenomenal, too. Earlier this year police charged Xiao, head of urology at the Union Hospital affiliated with Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, with organizing street attacks on two of his critics. Those injured were Fang Shimin, who under the pen name Fang Zhouzi operates the Xin Yu Si or New Threads Web site (www.xys.org), and journalist Fang Xuanchang (no relation to Fang Shimin), who has edited magazine articles about Chinese patients who failed to benefit from Xiao’s procedure.
Xiao was convicted of “causing disturbance” and sentenced to 5.5 months of detention (http://scim.ag/doctor-sentenced-Beijing). He has appealed the verdict. Science sent a request for comment to Xiao’s lawyer by e-mail but did not receive a response by presstime.
Questions about the clinical trial in Michigan based on Xiao’s procedure reached the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March, when the so-called New Threads Volunteers, a watchdog group that tracks Xiao’s research, sent a letter to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). The letter alleged, among other things, that “the current clinical trials in the United States are based on dubious data.”
ORI declined to take action, according to Eddie Cheng, a blogger, software engineer, and member of the Volunteers, who mailed letters about Xiao’s study to ORI and OHRP. Cheng says ORI wrote back in March that the allegations weren’t specific and that Xiao’s work in China was out of its jurisdiction. Last week, however, OHRP confirmed in an e-mail to Cheng that it had asked the funding agency to evaluate the allegations.
Xiao has many friends in the scientific community. Peters, head of urology at the Beaumont Hospital, and 30 researchers signed an open letter in support of Xiao in September urging China to “protect his human rights” and praising Xiao as “a compassionate man who is respected worldwide for his integrity and his innovative scientific contributions to society.”
Xiao developed a nerve-rerouting procedure to treat neurogenic bladder disorder in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Nerve crossover was first proposed by an Australian surgeon in 1907; medical literature holds a scattering of partial success stories. But Xiao’s approach—which he proposed in the late 1980s—bypasses the central nervous system by grafting a lower lumbar nerve to one or two sacral nerves below the spinal cord lesion, rerouting signals to bladder and urinary muscles. Xiao claims to have established a new pathway that can be used to initiate voluntary urination by scratching or squeezing skin on the thigh.
After testing the idea on rats and cats, Xiao applied for and received an NIH grant in 1994 to study dogs at the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. According to his own published account, Xiao began a trial of the procedure with Chinese SCI patients at a hospital affiliated with a coal mine in Henan Province in 1995 and published final results from the SCI patients in 2003 in The Journal of Urology. This peer-reviewed article reported that of 15 male SCI patients—all with hyperreflexic neurogenic bladder (involuntary voiding)— who had the surgery, 10 gained satisfactory bladder function, two had partial recovery, two failed, and one was lost to follow-up.
Critics see inconsistencies in the data. For example, in early reports (some in Chinese), Xiao described patients’ recovery taking place between 10 and 12 months post-op, but the 2003 final report says that patients gained bladder function 12 to 18 months post-op. In addition, the depiction of all 15 patients as hyperreflexic in the 2003 report seems at odds with Xiao’s previous reports, which described treating a mix of patients with hyperreflexic bladder and areflexic bladder (failure to void).
Eric Kurzrock, chief of pediatric urology at the University of California, Davis, Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, California, says Xiao’s study is “extremely flawed” because of “patient selection bias.” Kurzrock is particularly critical of the claimed high success rate, because it is not based on data from a randomized, controlled trial.
After treating SCI patients, Xiao began using nerve rerouting to treat bladder malfunction in children with spina bifida, whose spinal cords are generally not as damaged as those of SCI patients. The first privately funded trial at Beaumont Hospital, which took place in 2006 and 2007, included nine spina bifida patients and two SCI patients; Peters and co-authors reported preliminary results from spina bifida patients, but results on SCI patients have not been reported. The current NIH-funded trial aims to enroll about 16 spina bifida patients; the original design was not blind and had no control group. Peters says NIH has “created an oversight committee for our study. We met with them a few weeks ago and are addressing their comments. We will be submitting a revised protocol soon for their review.”
Friday, October 22, 2010
Back in March, we sent an open letter on Xiao's Procedure, with supporting material, to several government offices and related hospitals. Of them, the Office of Research Integrity of Department of Health and Human Services, had previously responded to decline an investigation.
Today, an email arrived from a different office, the Office for Human Research Protections, indicating that they are taking actions on this issue:
From: Borror, Kristina C (HHS/OASH)
To: Eddie Cheng
CC: Menikoff, Jerry (HHS/OASH)
Subject: "Xiao Procedure"
Dear Mr. Cheng:
The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) has received your letter concerning research conducted at William Beaumont Hospital. I apologize for the delay in responding to you.
OHRP has responsibility for oversight of compliance with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations for the protection of human research subjects (see 45 CFR Part 46 at http://www.dhhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/45cfr46.htm). In carrying out this responsibility, OHRP evaluates, at OHRP's discretion, substantive allegations of noncompliance involving human subject research projects conducted or supported by HHS or that are otherwise subject to the regulations (see OHRP memorandum dated October 14, 2009 at http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/compliance/ohrpcomp.pdf for an explanation of OHRP's jurisdiction).
OHRP has initiated an evaluation of the matter referenced in your letter. We notified the funding agency of your allegations and they have stopped enrollment into the study. We will advise you when the evaluation has been completed.
OHRP appreciates your concern about the protection of human research subjects. Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time should you have any questions or wish to provide additional information.
Kristina C. Borror, Ph.D.
Division of Compliance Oversight
Office for Human Research Protections
1101 Wooton Parkway, Suite 200
The Tower Building
Rockville, MD 20852
(Note: email address and phone number are also included in the above email. Although they are public records, they are omitted here to limit spam.)
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Nature joins the fray with an editorial of its own today:
A hammer blow to national ethics
Nature 467 , 884 (21 October 2010)
Published online 20 October 2010
China needs to act on broader science failures, not simply condemn an isolated case.
The trial of Chinese urologist Xiao Chuanguo for organizing beatings of two of his critics started on a Sunday. By Monday, the Beijing district judge had handed him a five-and-a-half- month sentence, and lesser or equal terms to other men involved. One of the victims, Fang Shimin, a self-styled science watchdog who investigates misconduct claims under the name Fang Zhouzi on his New Threads website, says the penalty is too light. But the judgment has already made Xiao persona non grata in China.
The attacks involved a hammer, steel rods and pepper spray (see Nature 467, 511; 2010). Xiao's supporters argue that the incident involving Fang Shimin followed a long-standing feud between the two men. The Chinese scientific establishment is right to condemn Xiao for his crime, but the authorities should not use this case to divert attention from wider failings in the research community.
The science ministry issued an online statement after the verdict, saying that Xiao “should be condemned for his vicious misconduct and lack of integrity”. The ministry wants nothing to do with Xiao, taking pains to disavow claims that he was chief scientist on a ministry-sponsored science project. The China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), the country's largest non-governmental organization of scientists and engineers, likewise welcomed the judgment. Meanwhile, the widespread and debilitating failures in China's scientific community go on largely uncontested, even though they have created fertile ground for this ugly episode.
Lack of monitoring and regulation in China means false CVs and scientific misconduct are rife there. The laxity can lead to a blurring of the lines between what is considered acceptable and unacceptable scientific behaviour, especially among young researchers. Channels of complaint about misconduct exist, but fear of identification and doubts over effectiveness drive many to launch unofficial, often anonymous attacks. Reasoned examination of facts and allegations gives way to vitriol and fear.
The impacts can be widespread. More than 250 patients in China are now threatening to sue hospitals, or Xiao directly, because they claim a surgical procedure he pioneered — which aims to restore bladder and bowel function in patients with spina bifida or spinal-cord injuries — doesn't work. The procedure has its critics, who say it should be considered experimental (K. M. Peters et al. J. Urol. 184, 702–708; 2010). But others back it, and last month 31 scientists (including 22 from the United States) posted a letter of support on the CareCure Community website, which is largely devoted to discussions of cutting-edge spinal therapies. The letter, signed by many who use Xiao's method, asks that his “scientific and humanitarian contributions to the world” are considered. With Xiao's conviction, will his technique get a fair trial?
Chinese government officials often promise to deal with scientific misconduct. This time they should do more than just punish hammer-wielding thugs and take steps to create a system that properly monitors fraud and plagiarism, checks reasonable allegations, prosecutes libellous ones and protects whistleblowers. The careers of scientists, the health of patients and the scientific future of the nation are at stake.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The following is an Associate Press report:
Patients protest Chinese doctor's risky surgery
By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press Writer – Tue Oct 19, 5:53 am ET
BEIJING – At one moment, the Chinese urologist seemed to be at the height of his career: He had invented a surgical procedure to help patients overcome incontinence and was training doctors in America and elsewhere. The next, Dr. Xiao Chuanguo was in handcuffs, confessing that he'd hired thugs to attack two persistent critics who called him a fraud.
The scandal has shocked the public and prompted calls for better regulation of Chinese medical research. And while research fraud and misconduct is widespread in China, Xiao is no run-of-the-mill charlatan. More than 30 urologists from the United States, Canada, France, India and other countries issued a letter in support of the U.S.-trained surgeon after his arrest late last month.
In China, several former patients have complained about severe side effects, including a worsening of their mobility. The respected Southern Weekly newspaper said in an analysis that poor regulation led to Xiao "treating patients as if they were voluntary lab mice."
Last week, a Beijing court sentenced the 54-year-old doctor to five and a half months in detention for his role in the attacks. Xiao, in police custody, could not be reached for comment.
Some American doctors consider his technique experimental but promising, and two U.S. hospitals are carrying out trials on a small number of volunteers, mostly children. Others, though, are skeptical, particularly of his claims of an 85 percent success rate. The surgery is meant to help people who cannot control their bladders because of a paralyzing accident or a birth defect known as spina bifida.
"Most of the pediatric urologists in the United States were very cynical about his reports," said Dr. Eric Kurzrock, chief of pediatric urology at the UC Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, California. "Nobody ever believed there was an 85 percent success rate, you know, and when you looked at his reports they were very short on details."
In China, Xiao forged ahead with the surgery on hundreds of patients, according to media reports. Now, some are saying he exaggerated the chance of success and that the surgery left them worse off.
Whether or not he is guilty of fraud or an ethical lapse, his case highlights the unregulated nature of research in China, with few protections for patients.
"It's no secret that the Chinese medical space is the Wild West," said Cong Cao, a researcher at the State University of New York who has written two books on China's science and innovation.
One man, Fang Shimin, has emerged as an unofficial sheriff, unearthing examples of scientific fraud and posting them on his website.
He took on Xiao, and the two ended up in a long-running feud. Separately, investigative journalist Fang Xuanchang, no relation to the other Fang, also started writing critical pieces about Xiao.
The stakes are high for Xiao, who once told reporters his procedure should win him a Nobel Prize and has said that becoming a target of the two Fangs cost him a seat in the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In June, two men attacked the journalist Fang with metal pipes, leaving a deep gash on his head. Two months later, the other Fang was attacked with a chemical spray and a hammer, escaping with minor injuries.
Police arrested Xiao after he returned from training doctors in Argentina. In a videotaped interrogation, the doctor said he paid a distant relative 100,000 yuan ($15,000) to hire two men "just to give them black eyes and swollen faces ... but not to do any permanent damage.
"Nothing else would solve the problem except beating him up," he said, referring to Fang Shimin, the muckraker.
Half a dozen patients and family members protested outside his trial, saying they represented 200 patients who were duped by Xiao into thinking the 30,000 yuan ($4,500) procedure had an 85 percent success rate.
"We need an explanation. We need justice," said Qu Binbin, a 29-year-old man in a wheelchair who said he was able to get around without crutches before having the surgery three years ago.
Supporters of the doctor also showed up. Guo Yuling, a 19-year-old college student, said he constantly wet his pants for the first 13 years of his life before Xiao's surgery.
Two former patients are suing Xiao for false advertisement, and more lawsuits are planned, said Peng Jian, a human rights lawyer who said he has documented 150 cases in which the surgery had no benefit or left patients worse off.
So far, the scandal has not derailed plans to continue studies in the U.S.
Researchers at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, reported mixed results — and some side effects — from a pilot study of nine spina bifida patients.
By early next year, they plan to begin a 5-year clinical trial funded by $2.3 million from the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Kenneth Peters, the hospital's head of urology, said he ensures that patients are fully aware the surgery is experimental and carries serious risks.
"Dr. Xiao has been nothing but in our experience an incredible gentleman, scientist and a very good colleague," said Peters, one of those who signed the letter in Xiao's support.
A separate 3-year study on eight children is under way at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Associated Press researcher Xi Yue contributed to this report.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The following is a translation of an essay written by Fang Zhouzi's wife, expressing her anger and frustration on how the Xiao Chuanguo case was handled. Fang Zhouzi posted the original in Chinese here.
by Fang Zhouzi's wife
Today I plan to take an act of rebellion forced by high officials.
I am a very good citizen. I live a normal life. In the subway, I offer my seat to those who are old, preganant, or very young. I am optimistic, always hoping for and pursuing a beautiful future. I live cleanly myself, and think about charity whenever I am able. I have never caused any trouble to society, never wanted to harm anyone. I am one of those who form the foundation of social stability, I am one of those for whom the ruling class is most at ease, never a need to worry or concern about.
However, Xiao Chuanguo spent 100,000 RMB to purchase an attack [on my family] -- considering that the perpetrators lived in a hotel across the street from my family for months and spent all day doing nothing but sitting on a stone bench or sidewalk in front of our building waiting for Fang Zhouzi, that was an expensive undertaking. Unless they are volunteers, this 100,000 sum is most likely only a down payment -- and planned [the attack] for half a year. When they took the action, Fang Zhouzi was lucky enough to be able to run away without serious harm only because of his quick reflexes, a result that led to the conspirator to claim as "impossible" on the Internet. Yet this very conspirator was only sentenced to 5.5 month of detention. This dramatic event became the last straw for me to live a silly and indignant life in this society.
I no longer want to use words like crazy, absurd, or emptiness. This rotten society does not deserve such emotion from me. I want to say it's buffoonery, for the ordinary people are slipping around in a giant, black and messy sauce jar, and splash, they are tripped and fell, and immediately submerged into the bottom. There is only a sound and everything will appear the same normal again. Life goes on. Only that too many people had drawned this way, the stench is unbearable.
"Social phenomena" much worse than this case of attacking Fang Zhouzi are happening every day. In the past, I have always hoped and believed that their exposure will lead to change. A net-friend had described me as "a woman desperately struggling in a sauce jar while her husband is making a great effort to smash it." Because of its symbolic importance, the attack has become national and even international news. But in the end, it is still able to be massaged and smoked into such a ball of mess without any true color. I congratulate the Political and Legal Committee of the city of Beijing.
You have successfully threatened a chivalrous fighter, encouraged criminals, and made obedient people desperate. You did a marvelous job.
Ever since that day of September 21, when Xiao Chuanguo was captured, a strong and mysterious power started to assert its force -- if this power had known it was Xiao Chuanguo's deed ahead of time, he would never have been arrested. So here I want to sincerely express my respect and gratitude to the Beijing police. Given the will and resource, you are able to recover all truth.
Guided by that mysterious power, in the short span of a dozen or so days, the investigation and questioning screeched to a halt. The case was sent to the prosecutors with a baffling charge. The prosecutors did not even take a break during the National Day holiday and forwarded it to the court with high efficiency. The court announced its verdict with lightning speed, without the presence of any "irrelvant" media. Xiao Chuanguo coorperated accordingly. Report shows that Xiao Chuanguo, who had been acting up "like a professional lawyer in questioning witnesses in court," behaved much unlike himself in the beginning, claiming that he did not understand the "causing disturbance" charge but if the court designates this charge to him, he would have no objections. Perhaps because all this had been planned too carefully and executed too smoothly, it actually led to a close call among themselves. When the defendant's side realized that the victim's side is helpless with the cover provided by the court, they wanted to enter a not-guilty plea instead. This sudden change must have not been planned ahead of time. At noon, the hungry judge had no choice but announced that he had to change the simplified proceeding back into a normal procedure. He announced an adjournment, the verdict would have to wait for another day.
The mysterious power realized that they could not afford to wait any longer and quickly took action to guide the events back into a preset track. So, the court was back to action in the same afternoon.
The defendants were then no longer making any troubles and an "intelligent" verdict was reached on time -- never mind that the victims' lawyer was not even present. Xiao Chuanguo said he would appeal. Yes, please continue your act, please continue to act diligently. The whole nation is watching with taste and excitement. They know what's at stake now. When the ruling class embraces sin, deception, and lies, the powerless has no choice but lowering their heads and accepting exploitation, cheating, and insults.
I can no longer trust the laws and courts of my motherland. I can not imagine what would be the result of the petition by more than a hundred victims of the surgical operation called "Xiao's Procedure". I can no longer believe that the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, or any other "relevant" power institutes could take their responsibilities. They always pretend to see nothing and hear nothing. Reports say that "the Minsitry of Health may publish its opinion on Xiao Chuanguo within a week." Is it so difficult to say that we need to launch an investigation on the "Xiao's Procedure"?
On the day after the verdict, an abusive and threatening message showed up on my cell phone. I couldn't help but laugh. Look how desperate you guys were, did you want the Beijing Policial and Legal Committee to take another action and arrest the entire family of Fang Zhouzi and kill them? Would that help to ease the hatred of Xiao Chuanguo and the like?
My little baby often makes up stories with me. Lately she has been naming her hero "Little Tear Drop". She also calls her most faviorate toy Little Tear Drop... Why are there so many tear drops in your little heart? I recall the confession from one of the attackers. He had followed Fang Zhouzi all the way as he was carrying our baby to supermarket. I tremble with fear. I have also been unknowingly taken pictures by the spies hired by Xiao Chuanguo. I have not seen those pictures myself. They were most likely taken around my neighborhood. For a Mom who dedicated all her spare time to her baby, the pictures must have been clandestinely taken when I was playing with her. I had even smiled at Xu Lichun, one of the would-be attackers. He was sitting on a stone bench with a funny expression and stared at me. I thought he was a relative of one of my neighbors. Then I turned away to chase my baby. She was calling for me.
China could not tolerate Fang Zhouzi. I open my eyes waiting for the time when the burning lava could break through the ground. There is no need for Fang Zhouzi to change himself. Let the time distill his sincerity and his value.
So, Ah Min, shall we run away?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
In an unusual move, a local court in Beijing took on the case of attacks on Fang Zhouzi and Fang Xuanchang on a Sunday. The proceedings was supposed to be open but few were able to obtain tickets. Fang Zhouzi did not attend it himself. His lawyer Peng Jian represented him. Fang Xuanchang was present.
Previously, the prosecutor of this case had adopted a lower charge against the accused, citing them only for "causing disturbance" (寻衅滋事). The court then used a "simplified procedure" (简易程序) to reach a speedy verdict without a jury.
In court, Xiao Chuanguo did not contest the prosecutor's charge of beating other people and causing disturbance. He said that he did not quite understand the term but "if the court thinks what I did fit this crime, I have no objections." But he denied that he had offered money to his relative Dai Jianxiang for the attacks, while Dai Jianxiang, a co-defendant in the case, insisted as true.
The court spent almost 5 hours cross-examining the evidences and then announced to take a break. However, after Fang Xuanchang, Peng Jian, and others had left the building, the court suddenly issued a callback and announced its decision.
The court found Xiao Chuanguo and his co-defendants guilty and sentenced Xiao Chuanguo and Dai Jianxiang for 5.5 month of detention (拘役), a lessor punishment than normal jail terms. Other co-defendants who participated in the attacks receives detention terms of 4, 3, and 1.5 months.
Even before the trial, Fang Zhouzi and Fang Xuanchang had already voiced their objection of the lessor charges. They believe the accused should be trialled for attempted murder. After the sentencing, Fang Zhouzi expressed his shock, claiming that the decision was even below his already lowered expectations.
Xiao Chuanguo indicated that he might appeal. Fang Zhouzi and Fang Xuanchang are also seeking other possible legal procedures.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Today, New York Times pays attention to China's credibility problems and Fang Zhuozi's efforts in exposing them:
Rampant Fraud Threat to China's Brisk Ascent
BEIJING — No one disputes Zhang Wuben’s talents as a salesman. Through television shows, DVDs and a best-selling book, he convinced millions of people that raw eggplant and immense quantities of mung beans could cure lupus, diabetes, depression and cancer.
For $450, seriously ill patients could buy a 10-minute consultation and a prescription — except Mr. Zhang, one of the most popular practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, was booked through 2012.
But when the price of mung beans skyrocketed this spring, Chinese journalists began digging deeper. They learned that contrary to his claims, Mr. Zhang, 47, was not from a long line of doctors (his father was a weaver). Nor did he earn a degree from Beijing Medical University (his only formal education, it turned out, was the brief correspondence course he took after losing his job at a textile mill).
The exposure of Mr. Zheng’s faked credentials provoked a fresh round of hand-wringing over what many scholars and Chinese complain are the dishonest practices that permeate society, including students who cheat on college entrance exams, scholars who promote fake or unoriginal research, and dairy companies that sell poisoned milk to infants.
The most recent string of revelations has been bracing. After a plane crash in August killed 42 people in northeast China, officials discovered that 100 pilots who worked for the airline’s parent company had falsified their flying histories. Then there was the padded resume of Tang Jun, the millionaire former head of Microsoft China and something of a national hero, who falsely claimed to have received a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology.
Few countries are immune to high profile frauds. Illegal doping in sports and malfeasance on Wall Street are running scandals in the United States. But in China, fakery in one area in particular — education and scientific research — is pervasive enough that many here worry it could make it harder for the country to climb the next rung on the economic ladder.
A Lack of Integrity
China devotes significant resources to building a world-class education system and pioneering research in competitive industries and sciences, and has had notable successes in network computing, clean energy, and military technology. But a lack of integrity among researchers is hindering China’s potential and harming collaboration between Chinese scholars and their international counterparts, scholars in China and abroad say.
“If we don’t change our ways, we will be excluded from the global academic community,” said Zhang Ming, a professor of International Relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “We need to focus on seeking truth, not serving the agenda of some bureaucrat or satisfying the desire for personal profit.”
Pressure on scholars by administrators of state-run universities to earn journal citations — a measure of innovation — has produced a deluge of plagiarized or fabricated research. Last December, a British journal that specializes in crystal formations announced that it was withdrawing more than 70 papers by Chinese authors whose research was of questionable originality or rigor.
In an editorial published earlier this year, The Lancet, the British medical journal, warned that faked or plagiarized research posed a threat to President Hu Jintao’s vow to make China a “research superpower” by 2020.
“Clearly, China’s government needs to take this episode as a cue to reinvigorate standards for teaching research ethics and for the conduct of the research itself,” the editorial said. Last month a collection of scientific journals published by Zhejiang University in Hangzhou reignited the firestorm by publicizing results from a 20-month experiment with software that detects plagiarism. The software, called CrossCheck, rejected nearly a third of all submissions on suspicion that the content was pirated from previously published research. In some cases, more than 80 percent of a paper’s content was deemed unoriginal.
The journals’ editor, Zhang Yuehong, emphasized that not all the flawed papers originated in China, although she declined to reveal the breakdown of submissions. “Some were from South Korea, India and Iran,” she said.
The journals, which specialize in medicine, physics, engineering and computer science, were the first in China to use the software. For the moment they are the only ones to do so, Ms. Zhang said.
Plagiarism and Fakery
Her findings are not surprising if one considers the results of a recent government study in which a third of the 6,000 scientists at six of the nation’s top institutions admitted they had engaged in plagiarism or the outright fabrication of research data. In another study of 32,000 scientists last summer by the China Association for Science and Technology, over 55 percent said they knew someone guilty of academic fraud.
Fang Shimin, a muckraking writer who has become a well-known advocate for academic integrity, said the problem started with the state-run university system, where politically appointed bureaucrats have little expertise in the fields they oversee. Because competition for grants, housing perks and career advancement is so intense, officials base their decisions on the number of papers published.
“Even fake papers count because nobody actually reads them,” said Mr. Fang, who is more widely known by his pen name, Fang Zhouzi, and whose Web site, New Threads, has exposed more than 900 instances of fakery, some involving university presidents and nationally lionized researchers.
When plagiarism is exposed, colleagues and school leaders often close ranks around the accused. Mr. Fang said this was partly because preserving relationships trumped protecting the reputation of the institution. But the other reason, he said, is more sobering: few academics are clean enough to point a finger at others. The result is that plagiarizers often go unpunished, which only encourages more of it, said Zeng Guoping, director of the Institute of Science Technology and Society at Tsinghua University in Beijing, which helped run the survey of 6,000 academics.
He cited the case of Chen Jin, a computer scientist who was once celebrated for having invented a sophisticated microprocessor but who, it turned out, had taken a chip made by Motorola, scratched out its name, and claimed it as his own. Showered with government largesse and accolades, the exposure in 2006 was an embarrassment for the scientific establishment that backed him.
But even though Mr. Chen lost his university post, he was never prosecuted. “When people see the accused still driving their flashy cars, it sends the wrong message,” Mr. Zeng said.
The problem is not confined to the realm of science. In fact many educators say the culture of cheating takes root in high school, where the competition for slots in the country’s best colleges is unrelenting and high marks on standardized tests are the most important criterion for admission. Ghost-written essays and test questions can be bought. So, too, can a “hired gun” test taker who will assume the student’s identity for the grueling two-day college entrance exam.
Then there are the gadgets — wristwatches and pens embedded with tiny cameras — that transmit signals to collaborators on the outside who then relay back the correct answers. Even if such products are illegal, students spent $150 million last year on Internet essays and high-tech subterfuge, a five-fold increase over 2007, according to a Wuhan University study, which identified 800 Web sites offering such illicit services.
Academic deceit is not limited to high school students. In July, Centenary College, a New Jersey institution with satellite branches in China and Taiwan, shuttered its business schools in Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei after finding rampant cheating among students. Although school administrators declined to discuss the nature of the misconduct, it was serious enough to withhold degrees from each of the programs’ 400 students. Given a chance to receive their M.B.A.’s by taking another exam, all but two declined, school officials said.
Ask any Chinese student about academic skullduggery and the response is startlingly nonchalant. Lu Xiaoda, an engineering student who last spring graduated from Tsinghua University, considered a plum of the country’s college system, said it was common for students to swap test answers or plagiarize essays from one another. “Perhaps it’s a cultural difference but there is nothing bad or embarrassing about it,” said Mr. Lu, who this semester started on a master’s degree at Stanford University. “It’s not that students can’t do the work. They just see it as a way of saving time.”
The Chinese government has vowed to address the problem. Editorials in the state-run press frequently condemn plagiarism and last month, Liu Dongdong, a powerful Politburo member who oversees Chinese publications, vowed to close some of the 5,000 academic journals whose sole existence, many scholars say, is to provide an outlet for doctoral students and professors eager to inflate their publishing credentials.
Fang Shimin and another crusading journalist, Fang Xuanchang, have heard the vows and threats before. In 2004 and again in 2006, the Ministry of Education announced antifraud campaigns but the two bodies they established to tackle the problem have yet to mete out any punishments.
In recent years, both journalists have taken on Xiao Chuanguo, a urologist who invented a surgical procedure aimed at restoring bladder function in children with spina bifida, a congenital deformation of the spinal column that can lead to incontinence, and when untreated, kidney failure and death.
In a series of investigative articles and blog postings, the two men uncovered discrepancies in Dr. Xiao’s Web site, including claims that he had published 26 articles in English-language journals (they could only find four) and that he had won an achievement award from the American Urological Association (the award was for an essay he wrote).
But even more troubling, they said, were assertions that his surgery had an 85 percent success rate. Of more than 100 patients interviewed, they said none reported having been cured of incontinence, with nearly 40 percent saying their health had worsened after the procedure, which involved rerouting a leg nerve to the bladder. Wherever the truth may have been, Dr. Xiao was incensed. He filed a string of libel suits against Fang Shimin and told anyone who would listen that revenge would be his.
This summer both men were brutally attacked on the street in Beijing — Fang Xuanchang by thugs with an iron bar and Fang Shimin by two men wielding pepper spray and a hammer.
When the police arrested Dr. Xiao on Sept. 21, he quickly confessed to hiring the men to carry out the attack, according to the police report. His reason, he said, was vengeance for the revelations he blames for blocking his appointment to the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Despite his confession, Dr. Xiao’s employer, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, appeared unwilling to take any action against him. In the statement they released, administrators said they were shocked by news of his arrest but said they would await the outcome of judicial procedures before severing their ties to him.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Exactly one year ago, Hollywood celebrities were busy writing appealing letters on behalf of Roman Polanski, a movie director who was convicted for child rape. A couple of years earlier, a world-renowned scientist, William French Anderson, might have his sentence for molestation reduced because of supporting letters from his colleagues, including a Nobel Laureate.
Today, 31 internationally-renowned scholars, most of whom are accepting fundings for experiments on Xiao's Procedure, issued an open letter supporting Dr. Xiao Chuanguo, who had confessed to the hideous crime of masterminding two brutal attacks on an investigative reporter and a free-lance writer who had worked to expose his fraud.
The common thread of these letters is that their authors pay little or no regards to the horrible injuries caused by the perpetrators, in the name that the criminals or suspects had previous made valuable contributions to the society and therefore somehow should be judged more than mere citizens. Where are the moral standards?
In addition, this particular letter once again states the Beaumont Hospital result has confirmed that "[nerve] rerouting does occur," without even a mention of the critical comments by their peers published in the same issue of the Journal of Urology. Where is scholastic honesty?
To those protected elites who never fail to protect one of their own, where is the shame?
Below is the open letter, in its entire glory:
Open letter in support of Chuan-Guo Xiao, M.D. from theInternational Academic CommunitySeptember 29, 2010To all,We have all had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Chuan-Guo Xiao for many years. He is an internationally respected surgeon-scientist who has made major advances in the development of neuroregeneration to restore voiding and bowel function. Dr. Xiao performed groundbreaking animal research in the United States, demonstrating that a motor nerve that innervates the leg can be used to reinnervate the bladder and bowel. This reinnervation allows for development of a reflex to initiate bladder function. The results of his studies were published in peer-reviewed journals and other scientists have replicated Xiao’s findings confirming these results.Dr. Xiao eventually took the courageous step of moving from animal research to human studies and began performing the rerouting procedure on patients with spinal cord injury and spina bifida in China. Neurogenic bladder is life threatening in China due to a lack of both antimuscarinics and intermittent catheterization, and lessening the complications of neurogenic bladder would be considered a lifesaving success. Patients with neurogenic bladder and bowel suffer greatly and endure a host of issues such as urinary retention, incontinence, recurrent infections, renal insufficiency, fecal incontinence, constipation, and poor quality of life. For a procedure as complicated as nerve rerouting requiring nerve regeneration, one cannot expect normalization of bladder and bowel function to be the definition of success. What is important is that the benefits outweigh the risks of the procedure.Dr. Xiao published his clinical results in peer-reviewed journals and was twice honored by the Jack Lapides Essay Contest, one of the most respected international awards given to scientists who make major contributions to the field of neurourology. In 2008, he was named the Kelm Hjalmas Memorial Lecturer from the International Children’s Continence Society for his scientific achievements. Many of us have traveled to China to examine patients treated by Dr. Xiao and/or have been trained by him in the nerve rerouting surgery he invented. Dr. Xiao is a very skilled surgeon who is passionate about patient care and works tirelessly to train physicians around the world in performing his nerve rerouting procedure.In the United States, an independent and very rigorous pilot research trial was performed to test the safety and efficacy of this procedure. The one-year results were recently published in the Journal of Urology. At the 12-month follow-up visit, a cutaneous to bladder reflex was found in 7 of 9 spina bifida patients, confirming that rerouting does occur. This finding by itself is remarkable and Dr. Xiao should be commended. In addition, a number of patients demonstrated improvement in bladder and bowel function, which has continued to improve with longer patient follow-up.The 36-month results are currently being analyzed and will be reported in the near future. The pilot data was supportive of Dr. Xiao’s procedure, and now an NIH sponsored clinical trial is being conducted to further study lumbar to sacral nerve rerouting in spina bifida patients. In addition, similar procedures have been done worldwide, with Dr. Xiao helping to mentor the surgeons at each site.The Chinese people and government should be proud of Dr. Xiao for his dedication to his patients, his scientific achievements, and his willingness to train doctors around the world how to perform his surgery. The International scientific community was shocked to hear of Dr. Xiao’s arrest. Those of us who know Dr. Xiao well find it difficult to believe that he is involved in these attacks.Dr. Xiao is a compassionate man who is respected worldwide for his integrity and his innovative scientific contributions to society. We implore the Chinese government and authorities to treat Dr. Xiao fairly and to protect his human rights as these charges are investigated. Please strongly consider Dr. Xiao’s scientific and humanitarian contributions to the world as facts are gathered in this case.Sincerely,Kenneth M. Peters, MDProfessor and Chairman of UrologyBeaumont HospitalRoyal Oak, Michigan USAJack S. Elder, M.D.Chief of Urology, Henry Ford Health SystemAssociate Director, Vattikuti Urology InstituteDepartment of Urology,Children's Hospital of MichiganDetroit, MI USAEdwin A. Smith M.D.Assistant Clinical Professor of UrologyEmory University School of MedicineAtlanta, Georgia USAKevin M. Feber, MD, FAAPBeaumont Children's HospitalRoyal Oak, MI USAAnanias C. Diokno, M.D., F.A.C.S.Executive Vice President & CMOBeaumont HospitalRoyal Oak, Michigan 48073 USAJuan José de BenitoUrologistHospital Nacional de ClínicasCórdoba, Argentina.William E. Nantau B.Sc., CNIMClinical ManagerClinical Neurophysiology DepartmentBeaumont Hospital Royal Oak, MI USAEvan J Kass MD,FACS,FAAPChief, Division of Pediatric UrologyBeaumont Childrens HospitalProfessor of Urology, Oakland University-WilliamBeaumont School of MedicineUSAJacques Corcos MD.Professor of Urology, McGill UniversityGeneral Secretary of the International ContinenceSocietyJewish General hospital3755 Cote Ste-CatherineMontreal, Quebec, Canada H3T 1E2Jose Gonzalez, M.D.Department of UrologyBeaumont HospitalRoyal Oak, Michigan USAChristopher Payne, MDAssociate Professor of UrologyStanford University Medical SchoolStanford, CA 94305-5118 USAKenneth I. Glassberg, MDDirector, Division of Pediatric UrologyMorgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-PresbyterianProfessor of Urology, Columbia UniversityCollege of Physicians and Surgeons3959 Broadway, CHN 1118 NY USAEarl Y. Cheng, MDAssociate Professor of UrologyChildren’s Memorial HospitalChicago, Illinois USADarius J. Bagli, MDCMProfessor of SurgerySenior Associate ScientistDirector of Urology ResearchDivisions of Urology andDevelopmental & Stem Cell BiologyThe Hospital For Sick ChildrenInstitute of Medical ScienceUniversity of TorontoHenri B. LOTTMANN, MD, FEBU, FEBPS,FRCS(england) FEBPUPaediatric urology unitHopital Necker-Enfants-Malades149, rue de Sèvres75015 Paris, FranceDr. Amrish Vaidya MS. MCh.Consultant Paediatric Surgeon,Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital,4 Bungalows, Andheri W, Mumbai, IndiaMarc Cendron, MDAssociate Professor in UrologyHarvard Medical SchoolChildren’s Hospital BostonBoston, MA USAStuart B. Bauer, MDAssociate Director, NeurourologyProfessor of UrologyHarvard Medical SchoolChildren’s Hospital BostonBoston, MA USAEdmond T. Gonzales, Jr., MDProfessor of UrologyBaylor College of MedicineHouston TX USARichard Macchia, MD FACSSUNY Distinguished Teaching ProfessorCleveland Clinic, FloridaBenjamin Girdler, MDUrology Center of the RockiesFort Collins, Colorado USAWilliam C. de Groat, Ph.D.Professor of PharmacologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburgh, PA USAMichael R. Ruggieri, Sr., Ph.D.Director of Urologic ResearchTemple University School of MedicinePhiladelphia, PA USAStanley J Kogan MDChief, Pediatric UrologyChildren's Hospital at MontefioreBronx NY USAAnthony Caldamone, MDUniversity Urologic Associates, Inc.2 Dudley St Ste 185Providence, RI 02905 USAYves Homsy MD, FRCSC, FAAPClinical Professor of Urological Surgery andPediatricsUniversity of South FloridaChildren's Urology Group5507 E. Longboat BlvdTampa FL 33615 USADr. Enrique TurinaProfessor of urology of the National University ofBuenos AiresChief of section Urology of Instituto deRehabilitaciónGovernment of Buenos Aires, Argentina.Dr. Angel OzónUrologist of the Instituto de Rehabilitación of BuenosAiresDr. Daniel EkizianUrologist of Instituto de Rehabilitación.Professor Dr. med. Karl-Dietrich SievertVice ChairProf. of Urology, Director - Uro-oncology,Neurourology, Incontinence, & ReconstructiveUrologyDepartment of Urology University of TuebingenD72076 Tuebingen, GermanyHolly Gilmer, MDChief of Pediatric NeurosurgeryBeaumont HospitalRoyal Oak, Michigan USAYegappan Lakshmanan, MDChief, Pediatric UrologyChildren’s Hospital of MichiganDetroit, MI USA
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The following is a news report by Nature on September 29, 2010.
The story incorrectly identified this blog as Dr. Fang Shimin's web site. The correct web site is at http://www.xys.org and is in Chinese. Dr. Fang is not personally involved in this blog.
Brawl in Beijing
Critics of Chinese researchers targeted in physical attacks
Science can be a rough game in China. On 29 August, on his way home from a tea house in Beijing, Fang Shimin was assaulted. The former biochemist — who for the past decade has run a website exposing scientific fraudsters — was chased by two men, caught and attacked with a hammer.
"I believe they planned to kill me," he says. "The only way to shut me up is to kill me." He escaped with only minor cuts and bruises. In June, Fang Xuanchang, a journalist who had reported on corruption in science in China, was left with more serious injuries after two men assaulted him with steel rods.
On 21 September, police arrested Xiao Chuanguo, a urologist at Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, on suspicion of master minding both plots. Xiao could not be reached for comment, but has confessed his involvement to Beijing's police. Fang Shimin says Xiao could face 3–10 years in prison — or more if the charges become attempted murder.
Xiao and Fang Shimin have never met or spoken, but their paths have crossed on the Internet — and in court. Xiao's clash with him, and with Fang Xuanchang, revolves around a surgical procedure devised by Xiao that aims to restore bladder and bowel function in patients with spina bifida or spinal-cord injuries. Xiao reported an impressive 87% success rate for the operation, which involves re-routing nerves[1,2]. In 2005, he was nominated for membership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the elite body of the Chinese scientific world.
Following his nomination, people started posting questions about Xiao's claims on Fang Shimin's website (http://fangzhouzi-xys.blogspot.com). Then in September 2005, Fang Shimin published an essay in Beijing Sci–Tech Report, which said that Xiao was not an associate professor at New York University as he states in his CV, but only an assistant professor. Furthermore, the article said that only 4 of the 26 English-language publications Xiao listed were journal articles — the rest being abstracts from conference proceedings.
It is not known if Fang Shimin's article affected the academy's decision, but Xiao was not made a member and has since sued Fang Shimin for libel five times. Fang Shimin, whose site has been criticized for giving contributors a platform for unjustified attacks on their enemies, lost one case and won two, with the other two undecided. Meanwhile, criticism of the 'Xiao procedure' has continued. Last year, Fang Xuanchang published a series of articles questioning its efficacy, which may have prompted the attacks on him.
Beijing-based lawyer Peng Jian says he has interviewed 20–30 patients who have experienced side effects after undergoing the Xiao procedure, and who are seeking compensation. This summer, the first US trial of the treatment reported ambiguous results in The Journal of Urology, and two journal editorials said it should be considered experimental.
Fang Shimin, meanwhile, is unfazed by the attack. "It won't stop me," he says. "I will continue to do what I am doing."
1. Xiao, C.-G. Proc. Int. Conf. Urol. Shanghai, 2–4 July (2005).
2. Xiao, C.-G. Eur. Urol. 49, 22-29 (2006).
3. Cyranoski, D. Nature 441, 392-393 (2006).
4. Peters, K. M. et al. J. Urol. 184, 702-708 (2010).
Monday, September 27, 2010
Professor Xiao Chuanguo first surfaced in the world internet forums some time near the turn of the centry. But nobody knew him then -- He was posting under a pseudonym "Confused Professor" (昏教授). Around the same time, Fang Zhouzi was starting his efforts in exposing scientific fraud in China. "Confused Professor" took an interest in Fang Zhouzi's actions and decided that he didn't like what he saw. He posted a few articles criticizing Fang Zhouzi.
In 2001, Fang Zhouzi published a popular science essay in a newspaper in China, introducing some recent research results to the general public. "Confused Professor" reported it to Science, which carried the original study, as a case of plagiarism. Science responded that it was not plagiarism because Fang Zhouzi "neither implied that the work was his own by writing in the first person nor directly copied the language in the Science paper." Nevertheless, "Confused Professor" and his followers continued to propagate the myth that Fang Zhouzi had committed plagiarism.
Fast forward to the fall of 2005, "Confused Professor" was revealed to be Professor Xiao Chuanguo, then in the process of moving back to China from his post in New York and applying to become a member of the prestigeous Chinese Academy of Science. Alerted netters wrote to New Threads suggesting that Xiao Chuanguo had been mispresenting his resume in his application. On September 21, 2005, Fang Zhouzi publised an essay in Beijing Science and Technology summarizing the charges, questioning Xiao Chuanguo's claims of his academic status, number of publications and that he had invented a world-famous "Xiao's Procedure" (At that time, the term "Xiao's Procedure" had only existed in Xiao Chuanguo's own tellings).
In October, Xiao Chuanguo sued Fang Zhouzi and the newspapers that carried the articles.
May, 2006, as Fang Zhouzi's efforts were exposing more scientific fraud in China, 120 Chinese scholars, mostly biologists based in US, published an open letter calling for a stop of such public investigation in the name of protecting scientists' reputations.
That June, Xiao Chuanguo also published an open letter of his own, attacking Fang Zhouzi personally and swore that "this must be revenged!" He followed that up by launching a series of libel suits against Fang Zhouzi.
On July 31, 2006, a local court in Wuhan reached verdict on the very first Xiao Chuanguo vs. Fang Zhouzi case. The court decided in favor of Xiao Chuanguo, employing some very convoluted logic. Fang Zhouzi denounced it as a practice of local protectionism and vowed to defy any penalty ruling.
That very same day, an open letter supporting Fang Zhouzi began circulating. Over a hundred people signed up right away. The number of signatures eventually reached over 600.
September 5, 2006, Xiao Chuanguo launched another lawsuit against Fang Zhouzi, this time in Beijing, challenging Fang Zhouzi's assertion of local protectionism in Wuhan, where Xiao Chuanguo lived and worked. Also in that September, Rao Yi, then a professor at Northwestern University in US, published a friend-of-court style essay criticizing Xiao Chuanguo. In China, Professor Qing Chenrui (the wife of Professor He Zuoxiu) also published an open letter supporting Fang Zhouzi.
By November that year, escalation continued. Xiao Chuanguo launched another round of lawsuits, this time in New York against Rao Yi, Fang Zhouzi, and New Threads. (Rao Yi's insurance company in US eventually settled on his behalf.)
In China, Professor He Zuoxiu and Fang Zhouzi's lawyer Peng Jian established a Fund in support Fang Zhouzi, who at that time was also facing several other lawsuits in addition to those by Xiao Chuanguo. Overseas, The Organization of Scientific and Academic Integrity in China was also formed to collect donations supporting Fang Zhouzi's cause. Science reported thusly, "China's Fraud Buster Hit by Libel Judgements; Defenders Rally Round"
March, 2007, Xiao Chuanguo, together with other plaintiffs against Fang Zhouzi, issued a public threat to all signatories of the open letter supporing Fang Zhouzi, vowing to sue every person who did not publicly rennounce their signatures. Within that month, Fang Zhouzi lost most of those cases in several courts. He once again pledged to defy the judgements.
But then on May 28, 2007, Beijing Intermediate Court reached a verdict in Fang Zhouzi's favor, a first court victory of its kind.
After that, the dispute seems to have died down for a couple of years until August 2009 when Xiao Chuanguo boasted on Internet that he had received a court-issued fine from Fang Zhouzi. It was news to the latter. It was then that Fang Zhouzi discovered that his wife's bank account had been raided by the Wuhan court without their knowledge. (Fang Zhouzi and his wife had a prenuptial agreement that separates their finances.) His appeal was denied by the court.
In the months of October through December of 2009, a couple of Chinese newspapers, led by science reporter Fang Xuanchang, published a series of investigative findings exposing the ineffectiveness of the Xiao's Procedure and its severe side effects. Lawyer Peng Jian announced lawsuits to seek damages from the surgery.
February, 2010, A group of volunteers of New Threads collected documented materials and published an open letter questioning the Xiao's Procedure. The letter was sent to several institions and hospitals involved in clinical trials of the procedure in US.
August, 2010, the first clinial trial result of Xiao's Procedure from Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, US, was published in Journal of Urology. The journal also published sharply critical comments.
June 24, 2010, reporter Fang Xuanchang was brutally attacked by two thugs on his way home. He suffered serious head injuries and barely escaped.
August 29, 2010, Fang Zhouzi was attacked in daylight in a similar mannar. Fortunately he was able to escape with only minor injuries.
September 20, 2010, Xiao Chuanguo was arrested and identified as the mastermind behind both attacks.
Friday, September 24, 2010
After retracting an influential paper from Nature a year and half ago, Nobel laureate Linda Buck is now retracting two more papers from Science and PNAS, respectively, as they have failed to reproduce the findings in these papers. All three papers were first-authored by Zou Zhihua (邹志华), a Chinese researcher who worked as a postdoc for Buck from 1997 to 2005.
In 2008, Zou wrote in a statement provided by UTMB [University of Texas Medical Branch] that he was "disappointed" by the Nature retraction, he "declined to sign" the Science retraction, as reported online today in Science. But "we have no information to suspect misconduct," Natasha Pinol, senior communications officer at the AAAS/Science Office of Public Programs, told The Scientist in an email.In addition to the irreproducible results, the PNAS paper also contained "figures inconsistent with original data," according to the FHCRC statement. While the PNAS retraction is "not embargoed," according to Managing Editor Daniel Salsbury, the journal refused to share any information with The Scientist.
Zou Zhihua is reported to be currently in China and unavailable to comment.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The following is a report by Science on September 23, 2010.
Urologist Arrested for Attacks on Chinese Whistleblowers
by Hao Xin
BEIJING—The police bureau here announced Tuesday evening that they have detained the suspected mastermind behind assaults on China's science misconduct watchdog Fang Shimin (aka Fang Zhouzi) and journalist Fang Xuanchang. (The two Fangs are not related.)
Earlier on 21 September, police detained Xiao Chuanguo, chief urology surgeon at the Tongji Hospital affiliated with Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan, after Xiao returned from a trip to Argentina. According to a Beijing police report published online, Xiao believed that the Fangs' muckraking investigation of his academic achievements resulted in his failure to be elected a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Chinese media have reported that, according to a police briefing, Xiao paid about $15,000 to a distant relative, who allegedly arranged the assaults on Fang Xuanchang in June and Fang Zhouzi in August. Police took the relative and two accomplices into custody earlier this month.
The bone of contention between Xiao and the Fangs is a surgical procedure Xiao developed that he claimed can help patients with spinal cord injury and spina bifida to restore some control over bladder and bowl movements. After seeing material supporting Xiao's nomination as member of CAS in 2005, Fang Zhouzi asserted on his Web site, New Threads, that Xiao's procedure was not nearly as internationally famous as Xiao claimed and alleged that Xiao exploited the Chinese public's inability to access information in English to inflate his achievement. Xiao sued Fang for libel in a Wuhan court and won in 2006, but attempts to sue Fang in Beijing courts failed.
Last December, while working for the biweekly Chinese Science News, Fang Xuanchang edited a series of investigative reports on Xiao's procedure, which has been performed on thousands of Chinese patients, according to Xiao. Before the Ministry of Health in May 2009 issued regulations banning the clinical application of unproven and controversial medical procedures such as stem cell therapy, some Chinese hospitals peddled experimental procedures to make more money. It's not clear whether Xiao's procedure falls in the banned category, but no clinical trials have been conducted in China to prove its efficacy. Many prospective patients were enticed by the touted 85% success rate. Since publication of the investigative reports, however, "the number of patients seeking treatment has fallen sharply," says Jia Hepeng, editor-in-chief of Chinese Science News.
The procedure also caught the attention of Kenneth Peters, director of urology research at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, who launched a phase II clinical trial at his hospital (see also an Associated Press report). Trial results have not been published. Peters also obtained two grants from the National Institute of Health to study the safety and efficacy of the procedure for treating spina bifida patients. According to a description in his grant proposal, preliminary results show that seven out of nine patients who received the treatment have shown improvements. Peters did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.
Xiao could not be reached for comment. His employer, HUST, yesterday issued an online statement that said the university was shocked by the police investigation into Xiao's alleged crime of intentional injury to others. The statement says that the university will follow the case closely and take appropriate action once the judicial system renders its verdict.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
A day after the Beijing police arrested Xiao Chuanguo, a few details of the case and its investigation started to emerge publicly.
After the attack on Fang Zhouzi gained much publicity, both local and city police allocated a large amount of resources to investigate the case. They interviewed close to a thousand people in the area and identified a couple of eyewitnesses. They were also able to retrieve a surveillance video footage showing a man following Fang Zhouzi right before the attack.
Within days from the attack, police was already able to identify the man in the video as 32-year-old Xu Lichun (许立春). Further surveillance on Xu Lichun then led police to his co-suspect Long Guangxing (龙光兴) and Dai Jianxiang (戴建湘). After they were comprehended, Dai Jianxiang, a distant relative of Xiao Chuanguo's, confessed that Xiao Chuanguo paid him 100,000 RMB (14,000 USD) to "teach Fang Zhouzi and Fang Xuanchang a lesson". Dai Jianxiang then offered half of that money to Xu Lichun and Long Guangxing to do the dirty work.
Xiao Chuanguo himself was abroad at the time of these arrests, so the crack of the case was kept secret for days, until police was able to arrest Xiao Chuanguo on his return at the Shanghai Airport yesterday.
The attack itself was more dangerous than it had previous thought. Fang Zhouzi escaped thanks in part to a comical error committed by the perpetrators. The attack was designed to have Xu Lichun confront Fang Zhouzi head on with pepper juice and an iron hammer while Long Guangxing hit with a steel rod behind Fang Zhouzi's back at the same time. Fortunately, Fang Zhouzi ducked quickly enough that the majority of the pepper juice landed on Long Guangxing's face instead, neutralizing that sneak attack. Fang Zhouzi was then able to run away. Xu Lichun chased and threw his hammer to him a couple of times. He managed to hit Fang Zhouzi on the back once but only caused minor injuries.
Various news reports indicate that all suspects, including the mastermind Xiao Chuanguo himself, had already confessed their criminal actions to police.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Beijing Police Bureau announced last night that they have cracked the case of Fang Zhouzi's assault. They identified Xiao Chuanguo, the professor who pioneered the controversial "Xiao's Procedure" and a long-time target of Fang Zhouzi's fraud exposure, as the mastermind behind the attack. Xiao Chuanguo and three other suspects are currently detained by the police.
Police also said that they had uncovered iron hammers and steel pipes, tools that were used in separate previous attacks on Fang Zhouzi and Fang Xuanchang.
Fang Zhouzi first exposed Xiao Chuanguo's misconducts in 2005 for lying about his resume. Xiao Chuanguo launched a series of law suits against Fang Zhouzi. Later, Fang Zhouzi further questioned the effectiveness of the "Xiao's Procedure," a charge that has also led to court cases in China and apparently supported by a recent clinical trial result.
The police will have further details as they continue their investigation.
Friday, September 10, 2010
In a recent correspondence to Nature magazine, Yuehong Zhang reports the finding of wide-spread plagiarism at a science journal in China. Here is the abstract:
Since October 2008, we have detected unoriginal material in a staggering 31% of papers submitted to the Journal of Zhejiang University–Science (692 of 2,233 submissions). The publication, designated as a key academic journal by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, was the first in China to sign up for CrossRef's plagiarism-screening service CrossCheck.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The following is a report by TIME magazine:
In China, the Bad News for Reporters Gets Worse
By Austin Ramzy / Beijing Wednesday, Sep. 08, 2010
When the man on the Beijing street sprayed something that smelled like ether onto his face, Fang Shimin had a pretty good idea what would come next. So he ran. Another man began chasing him with a metal hammer. The assailant swung and missed, then threw the hammer at Fang as he fled, grazing him on the back. Fang kept running and escaped the Aug. 29 attack with minor injuries.
Fang is a freelance journalist who has come to be known in China as the "science cop," specializing in exposing plagiarism, dodgy scientific claims and fraudulent résumés of prominent figures. He has recently felt his work would eventually cause one of his subjects to lash out. "I think the hit men were hired by someone whose fraud had been exposed by me," he says by e-mail. "I've received threatening phone calls and e-mails, and was followed and threatened before."
China has long been an unfriendly place for journalists. Publications face stringent government censorship, and reporters and editors who push the boundaries can be demoted or sacked. The nation leads the world in jailing journalists for their work, with 24 in prison last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. And it ranks near the bottom of the annual index of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based advocacy group. (Last year it was placed 168th out of 175 countries and territories.)
But two attacks on journalists in Beijing this summer serve as a reminder that the threats to the press can extend beyond censorship to outright violence. Two months before Fang Shimin was chased down the street, Fang Xuanchang, an editor at Caijing magazine, was struck repeatedly by two men wielding metal bars while walking near his house on June 24. He sustained a long gash to the back of his head that had to be stitched at a local hospital.
Fang Shimin says he thought both attacks were related to the men's work. After Fang Xuanchang was attacked, "it was apparent that I would be the next target," Fang Shimin says. The two men are acquaintances and sometime collaborators. Scientific charlatanry is one of their main interests, and the Wild West nature of China's booming economy has given them no shortage of material. Beginning with his time at Chinese publications Science News and China Newsweek, Fang Xuanchang had exposed multiple quack doctors who promoted dubious cures for everything from cancer to incontinence.
Fang Shimin, who writes under the pen name Fang Zhouzi, grew up in coastal Fujian province and studied biology, receiving a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Michigan State University in 1995. He created his New Threads blog as a grad student, originally to focus on literature and creative writing. When he returned to China in the late 1990s, Fang says he was shocked by the popularity of "pseudo sciences and superstitions." He eventually changed the subject of his blog to combat the trend and promote science. "In an ideal world, some more formal and organized watchdogs ... professional organizations or a governmental agency would be in place," he says. "But China does not have these, so individual watchdogs become essential."
Recently, Fang Shimin has questioned the résumé of Tang Jun, CEO of the conglomerate New Huadu Industrial Group, which stated that Tang graduated from the prestigious California Institute of Technology. Tang later said that claim had been promoted by others, and he had in fact received a Ph.D. from the Pacific Western University. But Fang investigated further and noted that school was an unaccredited institution that the U.S. Government Accountability Office called a diploma mill. Just before he was attacked, Fang Shimin had done a television interview on the case of Li Yi, a popular Taoist master who claimed to have supernatural powers that were later found to have been faked. Li was investigated for allegedly raping a former student, though police say those charges are unfounded.
Li Datong, former editor of Freezing Point, a groundbreaking supplement to the China Youth Daily newspaper, says that journalists like Fang Shimin, a.k.a. Fang Zhouzi, are "hard to come by in Chinese society." Aside from the pressures of censorship, low-paid Chinese journalists are often tempted by "red packets" — cash payments from businesspeople and officials meant to buy positive coverage. That leaves a lot of opportunity — and responsibility — for journalists like Fang who are willing to confront vested interests. "Fang Zhouzi touches upon power and business and the officials who support those businesses, because with any business, behind it there are officials in support," says Li. "So it's a matter of facing up to power. Chinese media, generally speaking, don't do a good job of this."
Facing up to power brings risk. Beijing police are investigating both journalists' attacks, but so far have made no arrests. The unresolved cases contribute to a climate of fear facing investigative journalists and whistle-blowers. "I will continue what I am doing," says Fang Shimin. "And of course I will take some security measures." But for other Chinese journalists facing similar risks pursuing a sensitive story, the best security measure, unfortunately, might be to ignore it.