Taiwan’s education minister resigns in wake of SAGE peer review scandal

jvcTaiwan’s education minister, Chiang Wei-ling, whose name appeared on several of 60 retracted articles by Peter Chen — apparently the architect of a peer review and citation syndicate we were first to report on last week — has resigned over the publishing scandal.

According to the University World News:

Chiang said in a statement that the decision to resign was made to uphold his own reputation and avoid unnecessary disturbance of the work of the education ministry, after the incident ignited a wave of public criticism.

The UWN reports that Chaing’s resignation on Monday came after Taiwan’s premier, Jiang Yi-huah, instructed the Ministry of Science and Technology to investigate the Chen case.

What’s more, according to the UWN — in news that, we humbly submit, hammers home the point of our New York Times op-ed last Friday:

The Ministry of Science said this week that it may have funded the research for 40 of Peter Chen’s questionable papers amounting to some NT$5.08 million (US$169,164), according to Lin Yi-Bing, vice-minister of science and technology.

He said in remarks released last Sunday that if Chen was found to have violated academic ethics, the science ministry would demand a return of any research funds awarded to him and bar him for life from applying for such funding.

The relationship between Chiang and Peter Chen is a bit complicated, but may hinge on the researcher’s twin brother C.W. Chen, the UWN reports.

Five of the 60 papers, written by CW Chen – Peter’s twin brother – bore Chiang’s name as a co-writer but also listed Peter Chen as one of the writers.

Chiang was CW Chen’s former thesis advisor. In a statement issued this week CW Chen acknowledged that the papers in question bore Chiang’s name without Chiang having been informed in advance because they were a continuation of research on subjects related to his thesis. “It was my decision,” CW Chen said.

He said he had also sought the opinion of his twin brother on some of the papers and therefore had listed him as a co-author but had not informed Chiang. His academic advisor and his brother had never met to discuss the papers, CW Chen said.

At an earlier press conference, CW Chen insisted that the minister did not have any links to his brother. Peter Chen and the minister had met on only two occasions, once in 2004 when CW Chen graduated from the doctoral programme at National Central University where the minister was teaching, and at a science forum.

10 thoughts on “Taiwan’s education minister resigns in wake of SAGE peer review scandal”

  1. It sounds a bit ….ridiculous from the twin brother to say he put his doctorate advisor ( the minister of education ) as co-authors without him knowing. I have ( modestly advised many students and would……. hate to have them include me without my knowledge. If the did so , I would take appropriate measure against them.

    1. I’m actually willing to give the Minister the benefit of doubt. The way authorship is determined in some fields in Taiwan is sometimes really twisted, automatically including your advisor is one of those silly things. Given that fake email accounts have been created, it is possible that the Minister never received any confirmation and Peter simply signed on behalf of him.

  2. Pubmed lists 210 publications of Ronald Plasterk. Ronald Plasterk is the current Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations of The Netherlands. In February 2007, Ronald Plasterk was appointed as Minister of Education of The Netherlands.
    Pubmed lists one publication of Ronald Plasterk with 2013 as year of publication, a multi-multi-author letter in Nature ( http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v496/n7446/full/nature12111.html ). His other publications have 2008 (twice) and 2007 or earlier as year of publication.

    1. Thanks for providing that link to that paper. I have a really serious problem with that paper. It has 177 authors. It is 5 pages long. That means that hypothetically, each author wrote 0.028th of a page. I would ask Nature to explain the exact authorship roles of each author. Did each of them write 1 sentence? Is that much intellectual contribution merit authorship? What would the ICMJE say about this? If we don’t start to ask these tough questions, including ot your MInister of Education, about such mega-author apers, then I am afraid very important answers will remain unanswered, with all due respect to Dr. Plasterk.

        1. That is correct, I did notice that. But my query was made based on the fact that there is no statement about who actually wrote the paper and if all 177 author sread and approved it for submission, including all revisions. Incidentally, I did find one author cluster rather amusing (I was tryingt o imagine so many completing this task): “The genome sequencing was carried out by C.C., K.M., S.M., C.S., J.C., B.F., E.L., S.F.M., M.J., M.Q., D.W., A.H., J.B., S.S., K.M., B.P., J..D., C.C., K.O., B.M., G.K., B.P., A.T., N.C., C.J., S.C., M.S., R.G., P.H., N.B., C.Lanz, C.S., J.H., K.H., G.P., J.L., H.B., C.H., D.G., D.W., C.R., L.D., K.L., L.R., K.A., D.L., S.M., R.G., C.G., D.M., S.N., G.B., S.W., M.K., J.B., C.M., E.G., M.H., N.S., D.B., D.S., J.W., A.B., S.H., K.O., M.M.-M., L.B., S.M., P.W., A.E., N.M., M.E., R.W., G.C., J.C., A.T., D.G., C.S., R.P., R.A., E.H., A.K., J.G., N.F., R.H., P.G., D.K., C.B. and S.P.” MY experience is that genome sequencing can be conducted by a single person, efficiently by a team of three, but needs no more than 5. Or outsource.

  3. Please excuse me for my unclear posting.

    I tried to argue that Ronald Plasterk, in contrast to Chiang Wei-ling, was not listed anymore as co-author since he became part of the government of The Netherlands (with a single exception).

    1. That’s an interesting strategy to avoid blame if blame is to be given, but I don’t see why journals would cooperate with the rewriting of history.

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