Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home News China launches unprecedented investigation into retracted academic work

China launches unprecedented investigation into retracted academic work

Anvi Deshpande writes on the controversial scrutiny currently being applied to Chinese academia.
5 mins read
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Image via Doraemon.tvb, Wikimedia Commons

Chinese universities are undertaking a mass investigation into the credibility of academic papers after Hindawi, an open-access publisher company, retracted nearly 17,000 Chinese-authored articles in 2023. The move comes from the Chinese Ministry of Education calling for transparency of improper research practices from some of China’s top academics.  

Universities will be given a total of 3 months to review and report all cases of retracted literature since 2021 with particular emphasis on academic transgressions. This has been cited by some as too little time for universities to give a comprehensive review in light of the recent Chinese New Year holiday. Should the universities be able to submit all cases of retracted work in time, the process of authenticating all academic mistakes may take years to complete.  

Should the universities be able to submit all cases of retracted work in time, the process of authenticating all academic mistakes may take years to complete

Whilst there has been no disclosed disciplinary action for any academics that neglect to submit their retracted papers for review, past action has taken the form of leave, demotions, or salary cuts. Not only this but the reputation of many researchers will be put in jeopardy should their research be submitted for internal review, setting an example for any future academics who wish to publish their research. There is also the question of who gets to decide what is retracted. Credible research findings and hypotheses may be lost to the impropriety of self-interested academics who are more motivated by financial research grants and the number of publications rather than the merit of the publication itself.  

In recent years, China has become one of the leading countries in the world for scientific research with the highest citation power. This investigation therefore proves unprecedented in that it directly calls into question the academic practices of many Chinese academics who have in the past avoided key research responsibilities. However, for many academic circles, this review may be unsurprising as the number of retractions in Chinese academic literature has been a concern in the last decade.  

This investigation therefore proves unprecedented in that it directly calls into question the academic practices of many Chinese academics who have in the past avoided key research responsibilities

A 2015 meta-analysis found that almost 75% of all retracted papers were written by Chinese researchers. Whilst retractions are not uncommon in the academic world in cases of ethical or moral detriment, many Chinese retractions are because of plagarism, falsified data or a direct product of “paper mills”, an economy of research outputs that manipulate and recycle data taken from other studies. Regardless, an investigation into retracted literature is a much-needed move to refine the quality of Chinese academic literature. In 2010, research publishing company Spandidos was accused of publishing reused data that was found to accept almost 90% of data from Chinese authors.  

an investigation into retracted literature is a much-needed move to refine the quality of Chinese academic literature

Chinese research has affected medicine, business, and politics. Now, Western academics may think twice about collaborating or incorporating Chinese researchers in their studies for the risk of contaminating findings. To avoid this, a renewed focus on publishing ethics should be taught more consistently in China’s academic fields to avoid dishonest practices. Intense national scrutiny on research methodology can be what China needs to continue their lead as one of the top research countries with renewed upstanding, ultimately, paving the way for the renewed literary ethics of Chinese professionals to more credible, appropriate academic practices.  

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