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New Regulation Targets Academic Fraud in China

New penalties for academic fraud went into force across China on 1 January.  The Ministry of Education has announced its intention to crack down on students, faculty members, and other academics who commit plagiarism, fabricate research results, or engage in the widespread practices of purchasing or dealing in academic papers, dissertations, or other academic writings produced by the country’s thriving composed-to-order trade.

“The regulation, seen as part of a broader campaign to stamp out academic misconduct, which is harming the country’s reputation internationally, is being described in state-run media as the ‘first of its kind’ in the country,” says the University World News.  Under the new rules, plagiarism on theses can result in denial of degrees at all levels, as well as withdrawal of degrees awarded in the past.  Misconduct could also lead to the expulsion of students and banning them from reapplying for a period of years, as well as the dismissal of university faculty and staff members.

Chinese experts believe that their country’s “academics need to
be trained in ethics and how to properly cite other people’s work,”
University World News reports. As Science Careers recently reported, standards
regarding plagiarism and research ethics vary widely across countries.
Financial incentives for publishing academic papers and institutional
features that safeguard the jobs of senior faculty members contribute to
China’s ethics problems, University World News adds.

In addition
to the new regulations, some universities have reportedly begun using
anti-plagiarism software to detect fraud.  But commercial “paper mills”
selling phony academic work, which advertise openly in the country, are
touting their ability–for an extra fee–to outfox the universities’
computerized sleuthing.

And the whole anti-fraud effort “would be
useless” without ways “to implement the regulations effectively,” says
Guandong University professor Zhao Guanyin, quoted in the article.  Can
China actually change a culture of cheating that appears to be endemic? 
Stay tuned.