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New regulation aims at stopping academic fraud

By Zhao Xinying | China Daily | Updated: 2016-07-20 07:47

Researchers at institutions of higher education who commit "academic misconduct" will receive punishments ranging from notices of criticism circulated on campus to being fired, according to a series of regulations released by the Ministry of Education on Tuesday.

The rules are designed to ensure the healthy development of academia in China, the ministry said.

Under the regulations, universities are to create academic integrity records for research staff members. Academic honesty will be emphasized as an important criterion in the evaluation of staff.

Teachers should guide students on academic integrity and examine their academic papers before publishing to avoid possible risk of violating academic integrity, the regulations say.

The ministry has been working to curb academic misconduct because such behavior involving both teachers and students has been exposed frequently in recent years.

In July, some media outlets reported that an industry chain selling academic papers had formed in China, with a doctoral dissertation going for 50,000 to 60,000 yuan ($7,500-9,000).

Such incidents have sparked widespread concerns about the development of Chinese academia. The regulations were released against that backdrop.

However, He Jingjun, associate professor of public administration at Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing, said the regulations only impose punishments on misconduct that has been found and reported. He worried that a "punishment afterward" mechanism will not be helpful in suppressing academic misconduct from the beginning.

Zhang Jingwei, a visiting researcher of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, believed an effective way of eradicating the misconduct is to build up a better, comprehensive evaluation system for all faculty members and staff.

In China, an important appraisal criterion for university teachers has been the number of academic papers they published. This led some to chase after numbers while ignoring academic integrity.

"The situation should be changed and higher education institutions should not evaluate teachers' performances mainly on the basis of how many papers they've published," he said.

Li Huiqing, an associate professor at China University of Geosciences, said a scientific and reasonable evaluation system should be set up.

The new system should pay more attention to the quality, rather than the quantity of research, she said. "It should encourage innovation and tolerate failure."

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