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CAS academician's work probed
Publication Date : 09-01-2014
The unfolding scandal involving a Chinese Academy of Sciences academician who is accused of plagiarism and copying technology for profit exposes flaws in the system that awards special titles to elite professors, observers said.
An academician is a professor who has received special acclaim in his field, an honour only few receive each year.
CAS academician Wang Zhengmin is said to have purchased an Australian-made artificial cochlea - a spiral tube in the inner ear that is essential to hearing - and copied the technology for a product produced in China, China Central Television reported on January 2.
Wang is a professor at the Eye and ENT Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai.
Wang Yucheng, a former student of his, reportedly told the academy on multiple occasions since 2012 that his mentor had committed plagiarism in 57 papers that supported his CAS application.
Four of the six academicians who recommended Wang to CAS in 2005 wrote a letter to the CAS in October, suggesting that he be disqualified.
"We're resolute. We don't believe the CAS should allow such a person to be on the list," said Liu Xinhuan, one of the four who wrote the letter.
"Any defect in a single paper will make a candidate fail, let plagiarism aside. Wang had many plagiarised papers, so we requested that the academy provide the appropriate outcome," said Liu, a molecular biologist at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences under the CAS.
One of the other two academicians who did not sign the letter is dead, and the other is from Fudan University, Liu said.
The academy has launched an investigation into the allegations and will handle the case in strict accordance with its rules, a statement sent to media on Tuesday said.
The CAS could issue a reprimand or revoke an academician's title, the statement said.
A spokesperson for the Academic Committee of Fudan University said during a news briefing on Friday that the papers written by Wang did not conform to international standards, but they did not rise to academic plagiarism.
The committee said on Wednesday that a probe of Wang's artificial cochlea products has been undertaken, and investigators are cooperating with the CAS to examine Wang's suspicious papers.
Wang said the allegations made by the academicians did not reflect reality.
"I'll wait for the investigation findings of the CAS," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.
In the letter, the academicians said they found that one of Wang's books had plagiarised parts of a book by a Swiss brain surgeon. Wang split the books into 14 papers and published them in the Chinese Journal of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, of which he was the editor-in-chief, the letter said.
"These papers were unqualified, and the practice was nasty," Liu said.
Moreover, Wang did not list sources for more than 100 pictures in his papers, Liu said.
Yao Kaitai, a professor with Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, was one of the academicians who initially supported Wang.
"We overly trusted the materials that Fudan University provided for Wang when writing recommendations for him," Yao said.
Yao said the academicians checked the catalogue of the candidate's books but did not actually read them.
"The rules for recommending a candidate didn't require that," he said.
Both Liu and Yao said they did not know Wang before he approached them for their support. Now they want to see the system revamped to avoid similar cases.
Current CAS rules allow an academician to recommend a candidate who works in the same profession. Yao believes that is not rigorous enough.
Although Wang is an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist and an expert in the treatment of a particular kind of tumour, the differences between professions can be huge, Yao said.
"Can you imagine how many professions medical science includes?" Yao said. "I think the specialties of the two parties should be closely related. And it is better if they've known each other personally for a long time."
According to Liu, the letter writer, taking Wang's case seriously can serve as a turning point to improve the atmosphere within academic communities and strangle plagiarism.
Wang Hongyi in Shanghai contributed to this story.