China: a major polluter of the scientific literature


China has surpassed the US in the number of scientific publications. Unfortunately for China, it has achieved that landmark accomplishment by streamlining the process of publishing garbage. They have institutions dedicated to making up data, forging results, and writing up formulaic papers.

Apparently, the Chinese paper mills even handle submissions, peer review (if there is a peer review, that is) and sign the copyright consent forms while pretending to be the listed authors. This is evidenced by the fact that in some cases only bizarre Gmail addresses are provided for alleged corresponding authors in China. Gmail access, as all Google services, were blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall in 2014, on Party’s orders. It is theoretically possible to use Google via VPN, but the Party has criminalised this, so hardly anyone dares. Whoever answers the Gmail accounts like CaseyPeiffer8311@gmail.com is definitely not some doctor in China listed as paper’s author, but the paper mill operator.

They are assisted in this endeavor by obliging editors in Western journals, who seem to accept anything that follows the form of a scientific paper without regard for the content. Just keep churning out stuff that vaguely resembles the LPUs that get dumped on familiar journals, and it will be accepted.

The papers mills churning out masses of 100% fabricated, never performed science which only exists in Photoshop, are the secret of Chinese science output supremacy which we in the West so admire and strive to keep up with. Reality is: nobody cares if the published research is real, slightly falsified or entirely made-up. Fraudsters face little consequences if they are well-connected, and one can always denounce a western conspiracy. The good scientific practice lessons preached by Chinese science elites do not even apply to themselves, as the case of Xuetao Cao demonstrated.

Who?

As per official hagiography, Cao was awarded his PhD at the age of 26, because his Master thesis was so excellent that his examiners gave him a doctorate instead. At 28, Cao was made the youngest medical professor in China, at 40 he was appointed Vice President of the Second Military Medical University in Shanghai. In 2005, the 41 year old genius was elected as the youngest member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, of which the Medical Academy is part, and he simultaneously rose to the military rank of a general, the youngest in China.

Damn. I had to write a whole thesis to get my Ph.D., and I didn’t get a military rank, ever. I’m less than a private.

And what is all this furious scientific labor being applied to?

The extra joke on top is that many of these fake paper mill emissions tout the alleged powers of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to cure cancer and other maladies, all because the nation’s President Xi Jinping himself is such a big fan of TCM. The Communist Party of China is merely getting what it ordered, again and again.

Then all the quacks cite these fake papers that get published in “peer reviewed” journals to justify their belief in quackery. Thanks, China!

Comments

  1. says

    Ah. Lysenkoism re-born, this time curing cancer instead of hunger.
    Different country, different people, different regime – same shit.

  2. zoniedude says

    Since you weren’t in the military your ignorance of the ranks is understandable, but I remember well that all of my fellow Marines knew that the highest rank in the military is PFC, which means Private Friggin Civilian, and most everyone in the military aspire to that rank.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Edzard Ernst has been make the point for years that the the results in experimental papers on acupuncture coming out of China are always too good.

  4. simonhadley says

    Typical China today. Absolutely everything about that country is cheap or outright fake. Chinese culture died with the rise of Mao.

  5. jrkrideau says

    Then all the quacks cite these fake papers that get published in “peer reviewed” journals to justify their belief in quackery.

    There are lots of bottom feeding predatory journals around the rest of the world, they just are not as organized. Beall’s List is still in existance btw. https://beallslist.net/

    This may be of interest https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/10/what-massive-database-retracted-papers-reveals-about-science-publishing-s-death-penalty.

    @ 3 Reginald Selkirk
    I have not been able to figure out if I should be horrified at the numbers or admire the Russian Academy of Sciences for carrying out the probe.

    What I thought was nasty was the quote “The report, released yesterday, “will reinforce the suspicions and fears of many—that their country is not going down the right path in science and that it’s damaging its own reputation,” says Sher, who applauds RAS for commissioning the investigation.”
    Coming from a country with these:
    Harvard Calls for Retraction of Dozens of Studies by Noted Cardiac Researcher
    Some 31 studies by Dr. Piero Anversa contain fabricated or falsified data, officials concluded. Dr. Anversa popularized the idea of stem cell treatment for damaged hearts.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/health/piero-anversa-fraud-retractions.html
    or
    A top Cornell food researcher has had 15 studies retracted. That’s a lot.
    Brian Wansink is a cautionary tale in bad incentives in science.

    https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/9/19/17879102/brian-wansink-cornell-food-brand-lab-retractions-jama

    I think it is a worldwide problem and no country can be too sanctimonious about the problem.

    Oh, if you get a request for your raw data form any or all of Tim van der Zee, Jordan Anaya, Nick Brown or James Heathers FLEE! Here is a bit of work that Brown and Heathers have done: GRIM.

  6. jrkrideau says

    Gmail access, as all Google services, were blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall in 2014, on Party’s orders. It is theoretically possible to use Google via VPN, but the Party has criminalised this, so hardly anyone dares.

    Try Googling “vpn google china”. I tried this in three different search engines. The results make me doubt the accuracy of the statement though perhaps PRC citizens are a bit more cautious.

  7. PaulBC says

    As per official hagiography, Cao was awarded his PhD at the age of 26, because his Master thesis was so excellent that his examiners gave him a doctorate instead.

    That part made me laugh. I could see it just possibly happening in mathematics if you solved a famous open problem. In most other fields, it sounds highly questionable. Did anyone see an early draft? Like he just shows up at a defense and the the committee (who have no authority to do so) awards him a PhD instead of an MS? (Probably not at a US university, but who knows.)

    26 is also not all that young to get a PhD and it’s a little old to be getting a Masters. Plus, what the heck was he doing those 12 years between age 28 and 40? It doesn’t fit the rest of his lightning trajectory.

  8. Matt G says

    Sounds a lot like grade inflation. Wasn’t there a story from a few years ago about how something like 90% of people graduating from Harvard had “honors” of some kind?

  9. says

    @7 simonhadley,
    Could we not with the fucking yellow peril bullshit? As a western academic, I can confidently state that there are plenty of unreproducible LPU papers from our institutions.

  10. says

    Xi’s apparent interest in TCM makes me think of the institute North Korea established to help increase the lifespan of Kim Il Sung. They investigated such questions as what was the optimal length of dog penis the Great Leader should consume.

  11. kaleberg says

    Please, it’s not paper mill. It’s academic content provider.
    The scary thing is that we don’t know how many such researchers and degree holders are involved fighting the coronavirus breakout in Wuhan.

Leave a Reply