Re: Facing up to fraud - China's exponential research growth could fuel fraud

From: Heather Morrison <hgmorris_at_SFU.CA>
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 2010 11:38:05 -0800

On 18-Feb-10, at 9:00 PM, Dana Roth wrote:

The January 25 issue of Chemistry & Industry (issue 2, 2010) has a
short article on research fraud which includes a sidebar on the
situation in China (see below). This suggests that, contrary to
Heather Morrison's suggestion, scholar led open access publishing is
not a viable solution. Without a cadre of truly professional peer-
reviewers, publication in Chinese journals will become increasingly


First, let me point out that my comments are based on the work of Shen
Yang and Fang Zhouzi, as reported in the SciDev article, which can be
found here:

Shen Yang points to a large disparity between the number of academic
journals in China (9,500) and the number of scholars who need to
publish (30 million) as one of the key structural problems underlying
the fraud she describes. Shen "called for an end to the paper
publishing burden on teachers, researchers and students. He also
suggested the development of online publications to reduce printing

To illustrate what this would look like in North American or European

Every scholar wishes to see their work published in the top-tier
journals with very high rejection rates: Public Library of Science
Biology, Journal of Medical Internet Research, Nature, Science, etc.
Picture a situation where these are the only publication outlets.
This is the very situation that Shen Yang is describing in China;
there are not enough publication outlets, which creates a bottleneck.

Shen Yang suggests that development of online publications would be
helpful. There is free, open source journal publishing software
available. Open Journal Systems is the software that I am familiar
with, but of course there are others. At minimal cost, China could
very easily and quickly ramp up to provide sufficient publication
outlets for all scholars.

This system must be led by scholars to achieve quality. Scholar-led
academic publishing has been the norm since the time of Oldenburg, and
continues to be the norm for both open access and subscription
journals. Quality academic content means that key decisions (from
quality of submitted articles to overall direction) must be made by
academics. This is true even where operational details are outsourced
to commercial outfits, and acknowledging that some scholars are
employed by such outfits.

There are many reasons why it makes sense for China to support local
scholars in leading development of scholarly publishing in China. For
one thing, China is the only place with sufficient numbers of scholars
with expertise in the local language(s), history, and culture. It
would be much easier for Chinese scholars to learn the technical
details of publishing and peer review, than it would be for outsiders
to learn the language and culture. Also, local scholars who continue
to work for the universities can play a role in both scholarly
publishing and developing best practices in tenure and promotion.

What we in the West can do to help promote high-quality scholarship in
any developing country, is to actively support development of local
scholarly publishing in these countries, for example by serving as
volunteers on the editorial boards of new journals.

Finally, I would like to point out that concerns about academic fraud
do surface in North America and Europe, too. It is good to see China
scholars take a lead in addressing issues that affect academic
quality. I am not an expert in this area, and am loathe to condemn my
colleagues in China. The Chinese scholars that I am familiar with are
producing top-notch work, of a quality that I myself would do well to
aspire to.


Heather Morrison, MLIS
PhD student
Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
Received on Fri Feb 19 2010 - 20:44:11 GMT

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