Do plagiarism, fraud, and retractions make it more difficult to trust research from China?

Yesterday, we blogged about the retraction of a paper in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology from a research team in China. The paper — claiming that tai chi helped women with arthritis — was riddled with inconsistencies and plagiarism.

Today, plagiarism and fraud made the front page of the New York Times.

Coincidence?

Well, yes.

The piece is worth a read. It details the astonishing breadth of cheating that appears, as per the headline, rampant in Chinese science, technology, and medicine.

We — and our wives (and our life insurance carriers) — were particularly struck by one passage describing what happened to two crusading journalists who have been doggedly covering such incidents. From the Times:

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.

We told our wives that the reaction to Retraction Watch has been much more mild but that we would be careful wandering the streets. But in all seriousness, we applaud the two Fangs and look forward to more of their exposes.

Maybe we can even work on something together.

Update, 3 p.m., 10/13/10: Please see comment below on the outcome of the case against the perpetrator of the attacks from Retraction Watch reader Krishna Pillai, who has also blogged about it.

2 thoughts on “Do plagiarism, fraud, and retractions make it more difficult to trust research from China?”

  1. After a quick trial, a local court in Beijing convicted urologist Xiao Chuang-Guo on 10 October of assaulting two well-known advocates of academic integrity in China.
    One victim of the attacks was Fang Shimin, freelance writer and self-appointed watchdog of research misconduct. Fang had questioned Xiao’s academic achievements, but this was not what prompted the attack, Xiao claimed. Xiao told the court that he had a decade-long personal conflict with Fang, mainly because Fang had insulted Xiao’s wife and teacher.
    http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/10/doctor-sentenced-in-beijing-for.html

  2. It’s hard to know whether this is specifically a China problem, or whether it’s going to be a problem for any country which has, historically, not produced much research and which is suddenly becoming rich enough to produce lots.

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