Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fang Zhouzi Awarded the Inaugural John Maddox Prize

The British journal Nature and charity organization Sense about Science announced recently that they have awarded the first ever John Maddox Prize to Fang Zhouzi and the British psychiatrist Simon Wessley.

The inaugural prize is established in the honor of John Maddox, a former editor of Nature, to reward "individuals who have promoted sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, with an emphasis on those who have faced difficulty or opposition in doing so.

In awarding the prize to Fang Zhouzi, the judges wrote:

China’s rush to modernize and the communist government’s celebration of science and technology have firmly embraced scientists and scientific achievements, sometimes uncritically. And into that permissive milieu has walked a plethora of opportunists ready to take advantage of the situation with padded CVs, fraudulent and plagiarized articles, bogus medicines and medical procedures carried out without clinical evidence.
In 2000, Shi-min Fang started to expose these escapades in his New Threads website. As an outsider, trained as a biochemist but turned science writer and commentator, he has done much of what the scientific community aims, but often fails, to do — root out the fakers.
For example, Fang called into question DNA supplements that were widely advertised as a means to rejuvenate the tired, the pregnant and the old. Eventually, the government issued warnings about the supplements. Fang seemed to especially relish smacking down powerful or popular scientists. He even challenged official support of traditional Chinese medicine. But his targets fought back, in one case with particular hostility. In the summer of 2010, thugs hired by a urologist attacked Fang with a hammer and, according to Fang, tried to kill him. Fang had previously challenged not only the efficacy of a surgical procedure developed by the urologist, but also his CV.
Fang imposes transparency on an opaque system. He has opened a forum for criticism and debate in a community that is otherwise devoid of it.
The award is for £2,000 (US$3,200) for each recipient.