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The Universal Values of Science and China’s Nobel Prize Pursuit

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Abstract

China does not seem to believe the existence of universally acknowledged values in science and fails to promote the observation of such values that also should be applied to every member of the scientific community and at all times. Or, there is a separation between the practice of science in China and the values represented by modern science. In this context, science, including the pursuit of the Nobel Prize, is more a pragmatic means to achieve the end of the political leadership – the national pride in this case – than an institution laden with values that govern its practices. However, it is the recognition and respect of the latter that could lead to achievement of the former, rather than the other way around.

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Notes

  1. In general, the Nobel Prize in science is less biased, compared to its counterparts in peace and literature (for a discussion on the application of the Nobel Prize in Literature to the Chinese case, see Lovell 2006).

  2. In 1993, the Chinese state stipulated giving yuanshi a monthly stipend of RMB200, which was substantial back then. Now, the stipend has been raised to RMB1,000 (US$160) a month. The yuanshi are not supposed to receive any other benefits. Holing a lifetime elite membership, Chinese yuanshi enjoy the benefit of lifetime employment.

  3. Chen later was appointed president of China Agricultural University and now is the vice governor of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

  4. There were several known cases of scientific misconduct involving elite scientists. In 2007, Fan Weicheng, a CAE member at the University of Science and Technology of China, was found plagiarism in three co-authored papers (Liu 2007); and in 2009, Liu Xingtu, also a CAE member, improperly used his colleagues’ work (Peng 2009). But their punishment was no more than reprimand or censure.

  5. The same could be said about residence permits (hukou). Despite diminishing importance, hukou remains a prerequisite for employment and mobility of Chinese people.

  6. While the CAST is an umbrella organization of China’s academic societies, U.S.-based academic societies are not affiliated with the AAAS.

  7. While many of the problems described here are commonplace in all systems, it is a matter of degree.

  8. New phenomena that emerge in a dramatically changing China are often labelled as having “Chinese characteristics” (Huang 2008).

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Jonathan R. Cole, Christopher Howe, Li Liu, Richard P. Suttmeier and two anonymous reviewers for their critical and constructive comments on early versions of the paper. The author has also benefited from comments made by participants of a seminar at the University of Nottingham. Partial support for this work came from a U.S. National Science Foundation grant (SES-0925015).

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Cao, C. The Universal Values of Science and China’s Nobel Prize Pursuit. Minerva 52, 141–160 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-014-9249-y

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