China asks its universities to review retractions of academic research | Science

China has for the first time undertaken a nationwide review of retractions of academic articles after noting the very high number of scientific papers rejected by publishers in recent years. On November 20, the Ministry of Education called on faculties and universities in the Asian giant to examine the retractions of academic articles by their researchers, verify the reasons for the rejection, and “severely punish scientific misconduct,” according to a note that continues to be published. on the websites of numerous educational institutions in the country. The departments have had until this past Thursday to self-examine the articles rejected in the last three years – since January 1, 2021 – and send their conclusions to the ministry, according to the magazine Nature.

The ministry’s request, as recorded in a note on the Inner Mongolia Medical University website, explains Beijing’s concern about the large number of articles by Chinese authors rejected by scientific publishers such as Hindawi, “which has “had a negative impact on China’s reputation and academic environment.” A recent analysis of Nature reveals that the aforementioned Hindawi publishing house issued more than 9,600 retractions in 2023, of which about 8,200 had a co-author in China. In 2023, all publishers issued nearly 14,000 retraction notices, about three-quarters of which had a Chinese co-author. Since 2021, when the period that Beijing intends to review begins, more than 17,000 retraction notifications have been issued for articles published by Chinese co-authors, always according to Naturewhich has taken into account only articles published in English for its analysis.

The Chinese economic newspaper Caixin ensures that the notifications shed light on “the scope and severity” of academic misconduct in China, on the “publish or perish” culture and the context that has fueled the so-called industry “paper mills”, companies that produce fake or plagiarized articles to order. This newspaper ensures that in 2023, more than 6,400 articles published in journals cited in the Science Citation Index (SCI) database, considered the highest ranking in science, were withdrawn worldwide; three quarters of them came from China, according to data cited by Caixinbased on a report by the American health consulting firm Healsan Consulting.

The note published by Inner Mongolia Medical University describes the problems that department heads may encounter when examining the articles. These include plagiarism, or the misappropriation of research, falsification of results, buying or selling research data, manipulation of research data, graphs and conclusions, ghostwriting, fabrication of peer review experts. peers, various forms of fraud to obtain funds for research or requiring authors to cite specific documents unnecessarily.

Problems of scientific misconduct in China are not a new phenomenon. Another article from Nature 2021 already showed the systematic production of falsified research through study “factories.” There have been flagrant cases in the country. In May 2020, police in Taizhou, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, dismantled a group of ghostwriters from whom more than a thousand doctors at hospitals across the country bought supposedly scientific work (most of these writers were not They had more than a high school diploma). They charged more than 10,000 yuan (about 1,300 euros) for a publication in national magazines, according to reports. Caixin.

An expert cited by Nature He assures that it is the first time that he has attended a national review operation of this type. Previously, investigations had largely been carried out on a case-by-case basis, but this time all institutions have to conduct investigations simultaneously, said Xiaotian Chen, a librarian and computer scientist at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, who has studied retractions and research misconduct in China.

In recent decades, as the Asian giant opened up to the world, rose to superpower status and developed its scientific potential, the number of its original academic works has also taken off. In 1995, China produced more than 12,000 publications, including articles and reviews. That number increased to 120,000 in 2009 and, in 2021, researchers based in China were authors or co-authors of about 650,000 publications, according to a recent study by the Institute for Scientific Information, an organization dedicated to analysis and research based in the United States. Only between 2009 and 2021, while China multiplied its volume by five, American production did so by less than 1.5 times and that of the European Union by 1.75. “China now publishes more academic research studies per year than the EU or the United States,” the report states.

At the moment, it is not clear what punitive consequences could arise from the detection of irregularities. In a similar situation in 2021, where China’s National Health Commission published the results of an investigation into a group of retracted articles, punishments ranged from pay cuts to demotion.

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