Set on becoming a “global scientific and technology power” by 2049 (as proclaimed by president Xi Jinping), China has already seized world leadership in the demanding business of fabricating scientific research without having to actually go to the trouble of researching anything.
Possessing more laboratory scientists than any other country in addition to producing the most scientific articles (aside from the US), these impressive statistics have unfortunately been overshadowed by the fact that since 2012 China now has the most retracted scientific papers in the world due to faked peer reviews.
A scientific journal in April retracted 107 biology research papers, the largest amount denied by a single journal ever; most of them were written by Chinese scientists and it was discovered that most of them had received fake reviews.
Government investigations uncovered the existence of an online “black market” selling both positive peer reviews and entire fabricated research papers, with a simple search for “help publishing papers” on popular Chinese e-commerce site Taobao revealing a staggeringly long list of individuals who deal in such falsities (costing from a few hundred dollars to $10,000).
China’s scientists have blamed its overabundance of falsified papers on the “skewed incentives” they say exist within their academic system, with the quantity of published papers rather than their quality being considered the better guarantee for career advancement – made worse by the fact that there is seemingly no punishment for trying to cheat the system.
Physics professor Zhang Lei on the matter:
“In America, if you purposely falsify data, then your career in academia is over. But in China, the cost of cheating is very low. They won’t fire you. You might not get promoted immediately, but once people forget, then you might have a chance to move up.”
Investigations into the journal that retracted 107 articles, Tumor Biology, divulged that the authors of the submitted papers used names of real researchers for their peer reviews but used fake email addresses, allowing the authors (or the writers hired by them) to fake their identity to write approving reviews and hopefully get the piece published.
Despite such horrid news, experts say the academic environment is actually “improving”, with the introduction of new detection tools lowering their tendencies to plagiarism – in addition to Chinese researchers returning from overseas universities putting their newly learned “ethics” into practice.