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Perceptions of Chinese Biomedical Researchers Towards Academic Misconduct: A Comparison Between 2015 and 2010


Publications by Chinese researchers in scientific journals have dramatically increased over the past decade; however, academic misconduct also becomes more prevalent in the country. The aim of this prospective study was to understand the perceptions of Chinese biomedical researchers towards academic misconduct and the trend from 2010 to 2015. A questionnaire comprising 10 questions was designed and then validated by ten biomedical researchers in China. In the years 2010 and 2015, respectively, the questionnaire was sent as a survey to biomedical researchers at teaching hospitals, universities, and medical institutes in mainland China. Data were analyzed by the Chi squared test, one-way analysis of variance with the Tukey post hoc test, or Spearman’s rank correlation method, where appropriate. The overall response rates in 2010 and 2015 were 4.5% (446/9986) and 5.5% (832/15,127), respectively. Data from 15 participants in 2010 were invalid, and analysis was thus performed for 1263 participants. Among the participants, 54.7% thought that academic misconduct was serious-to-extremely serious, and 71.2% believed that the Chinese authorities paid no or little attention to the academic misconduct. Moreover, 70.2 and 65.2% of participants considered that the punishment for academic misconduct at the authority and institution levels, respectively, was not appropriate or severe enough. Inappropriate authorship and plagiarism were the most common forms of academic misconduct. The most important factor underlying academic misconduct was the academic assessment system, as judged by 50.7% of the participants. Participants estimated that 40.1% (39.8 ± 23.5% in 2010; 40.2 ± 24.5% in 2015) of published scientific articles were associated with some form of academic misconduct. Their perceptions towards academic misconduct had not significantly changed over the 5 years. Reform of the academic assessment system should be the fundamental approach to tackling this problem in China.

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The authors would like to thank Li-Zheng Chen for sending/posting the survey and collecting the data, and Wan-Chen Hu for helping with the graphics.

The poster entitled “perceptions of Chinese biomedical researchers towards academic misconduct: a comparison between 2015 and 2010” was awarded the best poster at the 2016 Council of Science Editor (CSE)’s Annual Meeting.

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Harry Hua-Xiang Xia or Hua He.

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No support from any organization for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years, no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

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Extra data are available by emailing the corresponding authors.

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Liao, QJ., Zhang, YY., Fan, YC. et al. Perceptions of Chinese Biomedical Researchers Towards Academic Misconduct: A Comparison Between 2015 and 2010. Sci Eng Ethics 24, 629–645 (2018).

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  • Academic misconduct
  • Questionnaire
  • Inappropriate authorship
  • Plagiarism
  • Academic assessment