Thoughts on science plagiarism problem in China

August 4, 2011

Last September I saw this headline in Nature and thought to myself, “I’m okay with bootleg DVDs and Gucci watches but they’ve really crossed the line.” This recent NPR sound bite suggests that this ethical problem is rooted in culture – the lack of innovation and original thought stems from politics and tradition.

It surprises me that we’ve made a discrepancy between American and Chinese science. American science is original, thought provoking, and critically analyzed. Chinese science is unoriginal and prolifically empty. Given that science is (or at least ought to be) a universal language, there really shouldn’t be differences in how it is practiced in any given country. The standards should stay true regardless of race or creed – Scientific theory governs every principle and practice. Theory has already failed us a few times in the past few years (arsenic bacteria and autism linked to vaccinations) and I’m beginning to wonder what it means to conduct science. For some science is executing a set of experiments that answers an original question; for others it can be cherry picking experiments to answer a question or relying on other people’s data to answer an original question. While we can accuse the Chinese for lacking original thought, it appears that the rules of the game may have never been clearly established.

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