Saturday, March 18, 2006
Last January I posted about plagiarism scandals in the legal academy and the case of Zhou Yezhong. Reader Tom Kellogg has kindly permitted me to reprint here (slightly edited) his posting to another forum:
Perhaps partly as a result of the Zhou Yezhong controversy back in December, the debate over the plagiarism epidemic is getting more and more attention these days – the China Daily just ran an article in which government sources promise to impose a punishment system for professors caught cheating. A very good article that describes the pressures on academics to produce articles at a feverish pace – and thus engage in extensive plagiarism to keep up – can be found here.
The article, originally published in the 21st Century Economic Report by Prof. Gong Renren at Beijing Univ. Law School, notes that, because salaries, promotions, job titles, and other benefits are all tied to the number (not the quality, but the number) of articles placed in “key publications” each year, professors have a heavy incentive to both (a) engage in short-term, quick-payoff research whenever possible, and (b) plagiarize extensively in order to keep their output at an acceptably high level. He mentions that it is not unusual for individual academics to claim dozens of academic articles in a single year, a feat which is not generally possible without heavy reliance on plagiarism and the extensive appropriation of grad students’ work, which is also, according to Gong, rampant. Gong also makes the point that, because many of the key publications are more heavily politically censored, academics also have to engage in extensive self-censorship in order to make sure that their articles are accepted for publication.
Gong frames the article in terms of the need for officials in charge of universities to have tangible, measurable successes to show to their superiors. So when the government started dumping money into the university system in the late 1990s in its bid to create a “world-class university system,” university officials, besides engaging in massive construction projects, also heavily incentivized academic production, the result being, in Gong’s view, a Great Leap Forward-esque blind ramping up of scholarly output, with little attention to either quality of production or the downsides of the policy choices that have been made.
Another piece worth looking at which talks more about the plagiarism problem among students can be found here.
In this piece, Prof. Yang Yusheng, an expert on American history at China University of Politics and Law, estimated that roughly 20-30% of his students engaged in some level of plagiarism on a certain assignment, despite repeated warnings that plagiarism is unacceptable and will be punished. He also says that, as his reputation for enforcing academic standards grew, his enrollments plummeted, a problem perhaps not completely unknown in the US. According to another academic Yang cites in his article, roughly 60% of law students plagiarize, and the numbers go as high as 80-90% in classes on Marxism.
On the positive side, Yang, Gong, and others are part of a growing movement within universities to set meaningful academic standards for both students and professors. It is possible that, with the China Daily article and a spate of others put out by Xinhua, the government is signaling that it is open to new ideas on how to tackle the problem.
It is perhaps worth nothing that a Google search of "china daily plagiarism" turns up many stories of the China Daily being itself accused of plagiarism. See, for example, here (ripping off the New York Times), here, or here. And readers may remember that a few years ago the Beijing Evening News picked up (without attribution) a story from none other than The Onion reporting that Congress was threatening to leave Washington unless the city built it a fancy new Capitol (Los Angeles Times report reprinted here).
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Knut Pissler reports that the translation of the revised Securities Law offered by China Law & Practice in its first issue of 2006 (pp. 31 to 84) regrettably uses the wrong version. Knut has kindly prepared a PDF document available here that outlines the differences between the correct version and the widely circulating incorrect version. Is anyone at CLP listening?
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Simon Cowell probably never imagined that his cutting commentary on American Idol would eventually prompt a reaction from no less than the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT). But now frail-ego'd contestants on Chinese amateur talent shows need no longer fear ridicule: SARFT has issued rules (关于进一步加强广播电视播出机构参与、主办或播出全国性或跨省（区、市）赛事等活动管理的通知) regulating such contests that, among other things, prohibit judging committees from making comments that hurt contestants' feelings. The relevant language is as follows:
("Comments of the judging committee shall seek truth from facts, be positive and healthy, be equal and well-intentioned, not engage in unrealistic adulation, not engage in criticism that makes the contestant feel embarrassed, and not substitute irrational praise and criticism for intellectual guidance.")
Fox Network, are you listening?
Monday, March 13, 2006
I have been asked by Professor Caron, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Law Professor Blogs Network (the group of which this blog is a member), to post the following message:
Please take a moment to fill out our short reader survey here. We would like to have a better idea about who is reading this blog so we can better serve you. Thanks in advance for your help. (The survey will remain at the top of the middle column throughout this week.)