An award-winning Chinese expert on blood diseases, Huang Xiaojun, is under investigation by his hospital after being accused of plagiarism by his former professor.
Huang, head of the Institute of Hematology at the People's Hospital of Peking University, was quoted in the Beijing News as saying Friday he wouldn't comment on the claim until the investigation was over.
Lu Daopei, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told Xinhua Friday that some of the research material Huang submitted in support of his nomination for the Chinese Medical Association (CMA) award last year, had actually been the work of Lu.
Lu is also an executive of the CMA, which on Jan. 9 named Huang as one of seven medical science team leaders of the year for 2008.The awards were each worth 70,000 yuan (about 10,300 U.S. dollars).
Lu has claimed that he found Huang's name on a recommendation letter in December, in which the contribution Huang claimed as his was research Lu had done over a 20-year period. The recommendation was from the People's Hospital, Huang's employer.
Lu, who teaches at Peking University and Fudan University in Shanghai, displayed a certificate at a press conference in Beijing Thursday showing that in 2006, he was recognized as the leader of a group that developed a new medical treatment protocol for preventing rejection of stem cell transplants in diseases such as leukemia.
Lu said he also found 20 errors in 31 papers written by Huang.
Despite Lu's objections, he said, Huang was still given the award.
The CMA subsequently asked the Peking University Health Science Center and the People's Hospital of the Peking University to investigate.
"The hospital, which recommended Huang [for the award], should be responsible for the authenticity of the supporting material," said Wu Mingjiang, vice president of the CMA.
A director of the Peking University Health Science Center, who asked to be identified only by his surname, Xiao, said the center would conduct a careful investigation. Xinhua has not yet been able to contact the People's Hospital for comment.
The scandal renewed concern over academic fraud, which became a topical issue after the elite Zhejiang University on March 15 fired an associate professor who allegedly copied a former doctoral supervisor's research in eight of his papers and submitted one paper to journals for publication.
According to Lu, the reason why academic fraud was so prevalent was that scholars and researchers were chasing publicity and profits.
With his CMA award, "Huang could apply for more awards and research funding," he said.
Anti-fraud activist Fang Zhouzi, who runs a website on the issue from his Beijing home, said Huang's case showed that there were loopholes in the academic evaluation system in China.
"Someone reported the fraud, but the accused was still given an award before a thorough investigation. This is incorrect," he said.
In China, evaluation of academic contributions was superficial, Fang said.
"People just look at the quantity of papers rather than the quality," he added, which left the door open for plagiarism.
Leniency toward offenders was another reason, said Zheng Yefu, a sociologist at the Peking University.
"Employers of the accused are responsible for such investigations, but they tend to be tolerant," he said.
Fang agreed. "When some 'famous' experts are suspected of fraud, their schools and institutes often turn a blind eye," he said. Fang said that independent parties should conduct investigations.
The Ministry of Education issued a circular on March 19, saying that universities had primary responsibility for academic plagiarism. It said that the punishment for plagiarists could involve warnings, dismissal or even legal charges.
Plagiarists' research programs could also be suspended or terminated, they could lose their funding, or see awards and honors revoked.
Plagiarists would also be ineligible for financial support and academic awards for "a certain period," said the notice.