A swift increase in scientific productivity has outstripped the country’s ability to promote rigour and curb academic misconduct; it is time to seize solutions.
How researchers in China behave has an impact on the global scientific community. With more than four million researchers, China has more science and technology personnel than any other nation. In 2008, it overtook the United Kingdom in the number of articles indexed in the Web of Science, and now ranks second in the world. In 2018, China published 412,000 papers.
But China also produces a disproportionate number of faked peer reviews and plagiarized or fraudulent publications. Its share of retracted papers is around three times that expected from its scientific output (see ‘Outsized retractions’).
The past few years have witnessed high-profile cases of faked peer reviews, image manipulations and authorships for sale, some involving prominent Chinese scientists. In May last year, China asked two groups to foster research integrity and manage misconduct cases: its Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) . In November 2018, 41 national government agencies endorsed a set of 43 penalties for major academic misconduct. These range from terminating grants to restricting academic promotion and revoking business licences. This year, the government issued a foundational document to promote the scientific enterprise and foster a culture of academic integrity1.