Wang versus Wen at the Chinese Academy of Sciences

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), formerly known as Academia Sinica, is the national academy for the natural sciences of the People’s Republic of China. Collectively known as the “Two Academies”  along with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, it is an institution of the State Council of China, functioning as the national scientific thinktank and academic governing body, providing advisory and appraisal services on issues stemming from the national economy, social development, and science and technology progress. It is headquartered in Beijing, with branch institutes all over mainland China. It has also created hundreds of commercial enterprises, with Lenovo being one of the most famous.

Sun tzu

Being selected as  a full member of the Academy is the most sought after position for a Chinese scientist. Selection takes place every two years and this year there are 391 “candidates” and probably no more than 5 – 10% will be selected. At the end of 2008, there were 692 CAS members, including 40 female members and 51 foreign members. So roughly one in 2 million Chinese gets to be a member of the Academy.

Politicking and lobbying are not unknown in the selection of new members. This can be quite cut-throat and vicious as is quite normal in academic rivalry. In this particular case Physics Professors Wang and Wen were competing for a place. Wang – in a master-stroke worthy of Sun Tzu – accused Wen of academic misconduct with regard to a paper published in Nature Communications. Each fired off their ammunition on their blog posts. Three co-authors claimed – or were persuaded to claim – that their names had wrongly been included on the paper by Wen. This effectively killed Wen’s chances. While Wang had won the battle he may have lost the war. The Academy was not amused. Wang had rocked the boat too much. And in the latest development Wang  has now withdrawn – or has been persuaded to withdraw – his candidature. It could be some time before he is allowed to be a candidate again.

South China Morning Post:

A prominent physics professor at Nanjing University, Wang Mu, 51, announced on his blog on Monday his intention to withdraw from this year’s selection race for new members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), a title only given to leading scientists and academic authorities in China.

His decision has shocked many in Chinese academic circles. To many, the reason behind it is even more shocking. Wang has withdrawn from the race so he can investigate another candidate, his colleague, 49-year-old physics professor Wen Hai Hu, for alleged academic fraud.

On September 15, Wang informed the Division of Mathematics and Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences that in May Wen had published a fraudulent research paper in Nature Communications, a journal focusing on advancements in the field of physical, biological and chemical science.

According to Wang, three co-authors of the published paper didn’t participate in any of the experiments or analysis mentioned in it, and they had never seen the article before it was published. Wang said that in July this year the editorial department of Nature Communications had received a request from the three co-authors to remove their names from the paper. …..

….. While many were disappointed by Wang’s decision, some questioned his motive, which provoked further discussion on whether the CAS member system should be abolished.

“As far as I know, it is a close race between them. To Wang, Wen has become an obstacle on his path to promotion. The fact that Wang bypassed the university and reported to CAS directly has killed Wen’s hopes of becoming a member of CAS. The last thing CAS wants is to see a dirty fight,” a commenter posted on

On October 13, the Ministry of Education of China ordered Nanjing University to investigate the scandal. And the Chinese Academy of Sciences also formed a team to conduct an independent investigation.


The paper in question seems to be this one:

Influence of microstructure on superconductivity in KxFe2−ySe2 and evidence for a new parent phase K2Fe7Se8, Xiaxin Ding, Delong Fang, Zhenyu Wang, Huan Yang, Jianzhong Liu, Qiang Deng, Guobin Ma,Chong Meng, Yuhui Hu & Hai-Hu Wen, Nature Communications 4, Article number: 1897 (2013) doi:10.1038/ncomms2913

 If the news story is correct Hai-Hu Wen is the senior author and 3 of the 9 other co-authors are the ones who have apparently written to the Editor complaining that their names have “been used in vain”!!

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