A scientific renaissance in China? – Dennis Overbye

From The International Herald Tribune:

Every summer, hundreds of Chinese- American scientists, so-called overseas Chinese, leave their posts in the United States and elsewhere to return to help out, lured by lucrative salaries, prestige and the chance to “help China.”

Despite all the hype, most researchers say, their best students are so far staying in the United States. The Chinese system, everyone seems to agree, is rife with politics, and the sudden influx of money has created opportunities for corruption and fraud.

Last month, a star chip designer, Jin Chen, was fired by Shanghai Jiaotong University after a Web site run by a biochemist in San Diego, Shi-min Fang, disclosed that his design for a ballyhooed new signal-processing chip had been stolen.

That and similar incidents led 120 biologists to sign a letter written by a researcher at Indiana University, Xin- Yuan Fu, calling for a government office to investigate science misconduct. The Education Ministry has since set up a special commission to study misconduct. Yau said he was pleased to see China take the problem seriously, adding that there were many more incidents of fraud.

“They want to catch up too fast,” Yau said. “They want to leapfrog.”

Some scientists remain skeptical. Rather than adding a government commission, China should safeguard research by encouraging openness, said Fang Lizhi, an astrophysicist now at the University of Arizona who fled to the U.S. Embassy during the massacre of democracy movement demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

“You should allow people to speak, and share their opinion freely,” he said. “That is a basic foundation.” [Full Text]


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