Chinese Government tries to get to grips with science misconduct. When will India follow?

It was high time and even though they have tried before, the new measures just announced by the Chinese Education Ministry will hopefully begin to curb the widespread plagiarism, data manipulation and even data fakery that allegedly goes on.

India needs to institutionalise something similar. The Society of Scientific Values in India is an independent body and tries valiantly to act as a watch-dog but it has no teeth and no official standing. Of course in India the danger with creating institutions under a Ministry – and therefore under a Minister – is that the institution will very quickly become politicised. And Indian politicians are perhaps not the best choice when it comes to monitoring and establishing ethical standards. Nevertheless a start has to be made and the Ministry of Science and Technology in India is the natural home of an institution to promote ethical standards in scientific research and at institutes of higher education. The key will be to provide the backing of the Ministry to give it sufficient weight but to maintain its independence from party political influences. Giving such an institution semi-judicial status is one way but could be very heavy handed.

China Daily reports:

China’s Ministry of Education on Wednesday issued new rules to supervise universities’ scientific research and academic activities in order to “effectively prevent and curb academic misconduct.”

A statement on the ministry’s website said academic misconduct in higher educational institutions in recent years had drawn widespread attention, especially those incidents involving academics, awarded scholars and university leaders, the investigation of which lack standardized procedures. The ministry has decided to launch a campaign to tighten up regulation of schools during the country’s 12th five-year plan period (2011-2015), and promulgated relevant rules. According to the rules, schools are required to build systems inspecting original experiment data, publicizing academic achievement, handing in research materials before graduation or leaving posts, among other rules to boost the transparency of academic management.

Universities should set up bodies and working mechanisms to curb academic misconduct, release related annual work reports, arrange scientific ethics lectures and training for students and teachers, according to the rules. The statement warns that efforts must be made to prevent overemphasizing “the link between academic achievement and material reward and promotion.”

The statement also said that “an expert panel of no less than five members formed by university authorities” should be in charge of investigating academic misconduct occurring in the same universities. The investigative process should be “strictly kept secret” but the result should be open to the parties involved, it said.

 

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