From Bob Grant at The Scientist:
After a sweeping research misconduct investigation, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) has found nearly 500 researchers guilty of engaging in a peer-review fraud scam. Announced late last week (July 27), MST’s findings indicate that 486 scientific paper authors engaged, to some degree, in a scheme to nominate either fictitious or paid peer reviewers who would write positive reviews of their manuscripts.
MST is meting out stiff penalties to the guilty researchers. These range from suspending their research projects and canceling grants to rescinding promotions or even harsher retribution. “They will face punishment according to the Communist Party of China discipline regulations and the regulations on personnel from public institutions,” He told Chinese news outlet Xinhua. More.
At the risk of restating the obvious:
1) Science never does well for long in a totalitarian setting — where two and two make five whenever that guy with the cattle prod is in the vicinity.
2) Harsh punishments are not the answer. One reason capital punishment for theft was abolished in 19th century Britain was the acknowledgment that thieves were stealing purses at the foot of the gallows. What’s needed is a science discipline operating in a free society where cheating brings social disgrace among family, friends, and colleagues. Not merely the wrath of a government which also happens to be persecuting an old widow for handing out Bible verses.
See also: Tales of the Tone Deaf, featuring dim profs writing in dozy journals about why people doubt Science and how to fix them.
Peer review “unscientific”: Tough words from editor of Nature