BEIJING, June 14 (Xinhua) -- China's Ministry of Science and Technology is investigating a scandal in which a foreign medical journal retracted 107 papers from China for alleged peer review fraud.
The ministry said Wednesday that it has "zero tolerance" towards academic fraud and will severely punish the authors found to have cheated.
It came almost two months after the Tumor Biology journal, published by Springer, announced the retraction of 107 papers from Chinese authors. The journal said it has "strong reason" to believe the peer review process was compromised.
"The incident has had a very bad influence, seriously tarnishing the international reputation of China's science circle and hurting the self-esteem of Chinese scientists," said a statement from the ministry. "But it also shows we need to strengthen punishment for academic fraud and to improve the academic atmosphere."
He Defang, a ministry official in charge of rule enforcement, said a work group has been formed to thoroughly investigate each and every paper retracted by Springer.
The ministry has suspended government funding and projects being undertaken by the authors under investigation. It said it is partnering with other government departments to crack down on agencies involved in faking academic papers.
The authors in question are mostly clinical doctors. The incident has raised growing public concern on a common practice that doctors in public hospitals, on top of their busy work schedules, must publish a certain number of papers in national or international journals just to secure promotion or salary rises.
The ministry said the incident prompted it to fast-track the professional assessment reform. Pilot programs will soon be carried out in selected hospitals in which a person's honesty, competency and contribution will be the core criteria for promotion.