Exaggerating one's success is rife in Chinese academia

Sir

Your News in Brief story “Fantasy reference list leads to the sack” (Nature 440, 728; 2006) reports on the dismissal of Hui Liu, assistant dean of the medical school at Tsinghua University in Beijing. But exaggerating the scientific significance of one's research is even more harmful to the reputation of China's academic communities than faking a CV or résumé.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) plays an important role in setting the course for scientific and technological development. Its members are scientists, engineers and technologists, who are eminent scholars with a strong influence on China's science and technology policy. CAS membership is a high honour, but reading the exaggerated biographies of some members and candidates, one feels some of them deserve Nobel prizes. Ordinary research results are often portrayed as extraordinary scientific achievements.

Partly being driven by the country's ‘knowledge innovation’ policy, Chinese scientists have made it a priority to pursue publications in journals with high impact factors. The peer pressure on postgraduate students, as well as on CAS members, has made exaggeration of scientific achievements and overstatement of personal talent quite common in China. But ill-minded over-exaggeration, bragging, plagiarizing and fraud are morally wrong and should be legally challenged, in China or anywhere else.

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Huang, Z. Exaggerating one's success is rife in Chinese academia. Nature 441, 150 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/441150b

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