Chinese Geoscientist Accused of Misusing Funds

A prominent Chinese geophysical chemist, Duan Zhenhao, was detained by police in Beijing on Thursday for alleged embezzlement of research funds, according to a statement from his employer, the Institute of Geology and Geophysics (IGG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Duan, director of IGG’s Key Lab of Earth's Deep Interior, was elected a 2011 geochemistry fellow by the European Association of Geochemistry and the Geochemical Society in the United States and was nominated for election this year to CAS, an honor reflecting significant research achievements. He was a postdoc and later a research scientist at the University of California, San Diego, before returning to China in 2004. Duan's wife and son remained in the United States.

Three weeks ago, Duan's wife opened a blog on a popular Chinese Web site and began airing misdeeds she claims her husband committed, including the misuse of grant money. Last week, a CAS spokesperson said the academy was concerned by the allegations and had begun an investigation. IGG announced Thursday that it found that Duan had falsified an unspecified amount of travel expenses and that he had been turned over to the police. Duan could not be reached for comment; in a 13 July report in China Youth Daily, he denied having misused research funds. IGG officials did not respond to requests for comment.

On ScienceNet.cn, an online Chinese scientific community, many netizens pressed IGG to reveal how much money Duan allegedly embezzled and wondered whether his detention is too severe a punishment. In a blog posting titled "I feel sad for Duan Zhenhao," Xiao Chongfa, a researcher at Nanchang University in central China, wrote that talented overseas scientists should not return to China unless they have powerful political patrons who can protect them when the going gets tough.