CHINA / National

New watchdog to fight academic fraud
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-07-10 06:45

In a drive to curb academic corruption and fraud, an independent watchdog will be created to scrutinize the use of funds for research.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said the new organization will supervise the financial integrity and efficiency of State-level science programmes.

"The watchdog may hire independent auditing companies to give an objective assessment on the use of money," said Shang Yong, vice-minister of science and technology.

Along with the new organization, updated regulations for research funds' management are being drafted, and a third-party evaluation system for research performance will also be introduced.

"All these measures are expected to come into force this year," said Shang.

And they are only some of the reforms the government is initiating to improve its surveillance of scientific activities, as part of the effort to turn China into an innovation-driven nation.

A new mechanism to standardize research work is to be introduced and will include two databases.

One will be a broad experts database, from which different combinations of scientists will be selected for consulting panels to examine and appraise national projects.

While the other will take stock of all science projects, to avoid the repetition of research.

Before announcing these innovations, the ministry had already shown its determination to renovate the country's controversial research system, following criticism of redundant projects and public resources being wasted.

Earlier this month, Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua said in a report to China's top advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), that scientists or research institutes that lose credibility would be warned, and their misdeeds made public.

Xu stressed that scientific fraud and misconduct has done great harm to China's scientific progress, and therefore assessment of scientific work should be "authoritative and strict."

His speech followed a series of high-profile academic scandals.

A professor at Tsinghua University was removed from his post in March for faking his academic achievements and work experience.

In late April, a professor at Shanghai Tongji University was fired after the veracity of his academic record was questioned.

And in May, a scientist was sacked from Shanghai Jiaotong University for faking the invention of a home-grown digital computer chip in a State-funded project.