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Tue Jun 11, 2024, 06:58 AM Tuesday

Elite researchers in China say they had 'no choice' but to commit misconduct


11 June 2024

Elite researchers in China say they had ‘no choice’ but to commit misconduct

Anonymous interviewees say they engaged in unethical behaviour to protect their jobs — although others say study presents an overly negative view.

By Smriti Mallapaty

“I had no choice but to commit [research] misconduct,” admits a researcher at an elite Chinese university. The shocking revelation is documented in a collection of several dozen anonymous, in-depth interviews offering rare, first-hand accounts of researchers who engaged in unethical behaviour — and describing what tipped them over the edge. An article based on the interviews was published in April in the journal Research Ethics1.

The interviewer, sociologist Zhang Xinqu, and his colleague criminologist Wang Peng, both at the University of Hong Kong, suggest that researchers felt compelled, and even encouraged, to engage in misconduct to protect their jobs. This pressure, they conclude, ultimately came from a Chinese programme to create globally recognized universities. The programme prompted some Chinese institutions to set ambitious publishing targets, they say.

The article offers “a glimpse of the pain and guilt that researchers felt”, when they engaged in unethical behaviour, says Elisabeth Bik, a scientific-image sleuth and consultant in San Francisco, California.

But other researchers say the findings paint an overly negative picture of the Chinese programme. Zheng Wenwen, who is responsible for research integrity at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, in Beijing, says that the sample size is too small to draw reliable conclusions. The study is based on interviews with staff at just three elite institutes — even though more than 140 institutions are now part of the programme to create internationally competitive universities and research disciplines.




(full text, pdf, more, at link)

Open access
Research article
First published online April 19, 2024

Research misconduct in China: towards an institutional analysis

Xinqu Zhang and Peng Wang

Unethical research practices are prevalent in China, but little research has focused on the causes of these practices. Drawing on the criminology literature on organisational deviance, as well as the concept of cengceng jiama, which illustrates the increase of pressure in the process of policy implementation within a top-down bureaucratic hierarchy, this article develops an institutional analysis of research misconduct in Chinese universities. It examines both universities and the policy environment of Chinese universities as contexts for research misconduct. Specifically, this article focuses on China’s Double First-Class University Initiative and its impact on elite universities that respond to the policy by generating new incentive structures to promote research quality and productivity as well as granting faculties and departments greater flexibility in terms of setting high promotion criteria concerning research productivity. This generates enormous institutional tensions and strains, encouraging and sometimes even compelling individual researchers who wish to survive to decouple their daily research activities from ethical research norms. This article is written based on empirical data collected from three elite universities as well as a review of policy documents, universities’ internal documents, and news articles.
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Elite researchers in China say they had 'no choice' but to commit misconduct (Original Post) sl8 Tuesday OP
Perverse incentives to publish are not unique to China. hunter Wednesday #1
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