BEIJING--China's most prestigious university has adopted the country's first explicit policy to root out research misconduct. The new policy, announced late last month, is distinctive for its sweeping range of offenses--and for having teeth.
For years the government here has tried to combat what is seen as a rising tide of questionable behavior in the scientific community (Science, 18 October 1996, p. 337; 5 March 1999, p. 1427). In keeping with that campaign, the new policy at Beijing University (also called Beida) goes beyond the universally accepted sins of plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification of research data to include much broader misuses of scientific information. Its definition includes "intentionally exaggerating the academic value and economic and social results of a research finding; publishing results without appraisals from school authorities or other academic organizations, ... and disclosing research findings that should be kept confidential according to the country's laws and regulations."
Even before the policy was officially adopted, Beida officials had already applied it to a faculty member found to have plagiarized large amounts of material from a leading U.S. textbook on cultural anthropology. A university investigation found that Wang Mingming, a 38-year-old anthropologist, had used the material in his 1998 book, Imaginary Alien Nation. Late last year, the university removed Wang from his post as director of the folklore study center, as well as from the sociology department's academic board and its anthropology teaching and research section. Wang is not allowed to recruit new doctoral students for 2 years, although he may continue advising those currently under his supervision.
Senior faculty members, some of whom were consulted on the policy, say they are pleased with the new rules. "I am a strong supporter of those regulations," says Chen Dayue, deputy director of the college of mathematics science. "Research ethics have been passed on from teachers to students over generations at our university. But now a large group of faculty members are from other universities both at home and abroad. So we need a written document to guide and instruct our teachers and to prevent them from misconduct."