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The scientific community is an international body of professionals that ultimately work in collaboration for the further progression of scientific discovery and application. It is because of this global network of interactions that occur between such scientists that individuals must make every possible effort to ensure the integrity of their research being conducted and in turn ultimately published. China, due to its sheer number of individuals within the scientific workforce, possesses a significant degree of influence and responsibility when it comes to the scientific material that they publish for use by a global audience. It is because of this responsibility that officials within China’s scientific community are making every effort to both addresses the growing concern of violations within scientific research as well as educate individuals to prevent potential incidents in the future. One such example of this collective effort is demonstrated in the article “Research Integrity in China” published by president Wei Yang of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Not only does President Yang identify the current issue of ethical misconduct within the Chinese scientific community, but he also presents the collective efforts both domestically and abroad that were created to address and rectify such discrepancies.
The opening of Yang’s piece focuses on the necessity for protecting the integrity of research being conducted based on the implications that may unfold if otherwise. Scientific research is no longer just a measurement of an individual scientist’s success; it is also a reflection of the intelligence of their nation within a global standing. The relative ease of publishing and obtaining information from practically anywhere around the globe has permitted the explosive expansion of the scientific community to levels previously unmatched. It is because of this increase in communication across the globe that Yang points out the growing concern of lapses in research integrity within Chinese academics. He presents the issue that when such unethical issues come to the public knowledge, it rarely remains localized domestically for long. When such news becomes known, Yang points out that such controversies can degrade other contributions that the Chinese scientific community may be presenting. It is unlikely that such an occurrence would be unique to a single country. It is my belief that any occurrence in which research integrity would be lacking would surely place a burden in for the nation of origin.
Perhaps the greatest consequence for such actions would be the association of that nation’s scientific community with lacking integrity, even if it may have only been a single group of individuals. Yang presents the fact that while the traits that contribute to discrepancies in research integrity within scientific research may be contributed to the “unhealthy research environment”, efforts are actively being made to correct and prevent such issues from occurring in the future (Yang, 1019). It is interesting to note that most, if not all, of these efforts, are similar to those within other scientific communities across the globe. Such resolutions include placing limits on the number of submissions of the same paper to different journals, increasing the length in which the review process occurs to find errors (or fraud) prior to public release, and more (Yang, 1019). These efforts further demonstrate that such issues are not isolated within a single nation but also within the global scientific community. By utilize international means of monitoring the research integrity of the scientific community, Yang further demonstrates the interconnectedness and interdependency that is required for China’s success both domestically and abroad. Ensuring the research integrity within the scientific community is not a single nation’s responsibility.
Just as fraud and error occur within research found across the globe, it is the responsibility of all members within the scientific community to ensure that the integrity of research being conducted is secured. President Wei Yang’s article about the necessity of more active efforts within China is but one example of a growing trend. This is perhaps best exemplified when Yang states that credible science cannot “happen until the scientific enterprise is healthy and credible” (Yang, 1019). In order for science to be able to progress at the quality and rate that is required, individuals within the field must ensure that the integrity of their research is ethical, credible, and supportable.
China’s Publication Bazaar As the most direct form of interaction and use of scientific research is through the use of publications, there have been observations within the community showing a shift from an academic culture to more of a business model. China appears to be one such epicenter of this business in which scientists purchase an authorship line within a paper that has yet to be published (Hvistendahl, 1035). The most direct comparison that I could make for such a practice would be to a company buying advertising space for self-promotion. In both forms, they lack taste and further diminish their respective communities as a whole.
One of the more critical issues that arise with the continued use of this practice is that it is becoming a more relatively easy commodity due to the fast and ease of communication via the internet. In this manner, scientific articles are treated as a commodity that could just as easily be purchased as any other consumer product. Such a trend is of significant concern within China and is best described within Mara Hvistendahl’s article “China’s Publication Bazaar” which outlines how this practice is permitted to continue and the need for it to be prevented by the scientific community. The trade and sale of authorship for scientific articles become a significant issue as completely demoralizes the overarching theme of science: the pursuit and application of original thought. When scientists decide to deliberately use their research solely as a means of income and recognition, then the whole scientific process becomes tainted with corruption, dishonesty, and likely unimpressive research.
Hvistendahl best demonstrates this demoralization of scientific thought when one such authorship company stated that “‘some authors don’t have much use for their papers after they’re published, and they can be transferred to you’” (Hvistendahl, 1035). This statement demonstrates how such authorship publication trades degrade the research that was conducted. It is my belief that scientists should take pride in the research that they accomplish and not treat is as a means to a higher salary or promotion. Ownership of research is a key tenant within the scientific community and practices such as this only do a disservice to those who are attempting to present credible (and ethical) research. While it is likely that the practice of the authorship publication trade is not isolated solely within a single nation or academic cultural group, I believe that nations such as China are more prone to its occurrence due to the significant pressures for having publications as a measurement of accomplishment. Any academic or professional culture that places more emphasis on the number and type of publication and individual has rather than the quality of such a publication would likely be more susceptible to the pressures of utilizing this practice. It is because of practices such as this that cause China, as well as other similarly-organized groups, to possess a stigma of “corrupt” research.
The only possible resolution to prevent these organized group’s from continuing to push this authorship-publication trade is through direct intervention. One such example provided by Hvistendahl is the use of direct government intervention similar to how other nations, particularly the United States, in response. Another possible resolution proposed by Hvistendahl to this form of unethical practice is shifting the criteria in which a scientist is measured. Instead of focusing on the quantitative aspects of their “publications”, Chinese scientific officials are beginning to shift to an emphasis on the quality of their work and the impact that it possesses within the global scientific community.
Competition for the limited number of positions and resources that the Chinese scientific and academic communities have available has significantly contributed to the growth of this unethical authorship publication industry. While this is surely not solely isolated within China alone, the sheer amount of research that is published annually makes the impact that this malpractice even more significant within the global scientific community. In order to rectify such discrepancies, professionals both within China and abroad need to make every effort to ensure that honest authorship practices are being utilized as well as ensuring these author publication companies are being identified and held responsible for their actions. It is only after these practices are in place that actual progress within the Chinese scientific community can be made.
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