Plagiarism in Chinese Academia

I was glad to read this article in the Christian Science Monitor about an attempt to reduce plagiarism among Chinese professors.

The latest fraud to rock Chinese academia centers on He Haibo, an associate professor of pharmacology at the prestigious Zhejiang University. [Not very prestigious, since I haven’t heard of it.] He now admits to copying or making up material he submitted in eight papers to international journals and has been fired, along with the head of his research institute. The affair has drawn particular attention because a world-renowned expert in traditional Chinese medicine, Li Lianda, lent his name as coauthor to one of the fraudulent papers. His tenure will not be renewed when his contract expires soon, the president of Zhejiang University has said.

The Beijing Sport University, one of three sport universities in the world, is near my university. It has a Ph.D. program. To get a Ph.D. you must submit three books! As one of their graduate students told me, no way you can do that without plagiarism. He had noticed that a book by one of his professors was simply a copy of another book.

This paragraph, however, amused me:

Stearns [a Yale professor who taught at Beijing University] says that he and his colleagues at Yale “do not believe letters of recommendation from Chinese professors, for we know that many of them are written by the students themselves,” and merely signed by their teachers.

He thinks letters from Berkeley are different? My system for writing letters of recommendation was more nuanced, after I learned that students had great trouble writing these letters. I met with the student and we wrote it together. This had two great advantages: 1. It showed the student in the best possible (i.e., truthful) light. 2. It was easy. Trying to write a good letter by myself was tough.

Thanks to Sheila Buff.

One Reply to “Plagiarism in Chinese Academia”

  1. Wouldn’t that be against Berkeley’s honor code?

    But you’re right, I see this happening almost everywhere now, including recommendation letters for MBA programs. I don’t think it was that prevalent only a few years back, the practice seems to have taken off recently.

    Don’t most of the top schools go around claiming that the recommendation letter is one of the most important aspects of the application?

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