"Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend" is a policy set forth by Late Chairman Mao Zedong in the 1950s for promoting the progress of arts and science. Prof. Zou Chenglu (Tsou Chenglu), a prestigious biochemist and biophysicist with the CAS Institute of biophysics, thinks that it still remains to be an important prerequisite for the development of flourishing scientific undertaking in China.
In an article on the newly-launched website of Academic Divisions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (www.casad.ad.cn), Prof. Zou, a CAS Member, points out the lack of public debates and criticism in the academic circles will only hinder the science progress in China. Although some research results are in controversy, he says, people often find it difficult to publish their criticisms in academic journals, in Science in China, one of the top-level science journals in this country.
In scores of thousand research papers published in China each year. it is inevitable to find some erroneous results. Open discussions on those papers will prevent the spread of mistakes, and will be beneficial for the authors of the papers concerned for them to make their corrections and consequently for upgrading the overall level of science journals in China, notes Zou.
Prof. Zou attributes this situation partly to the underdevelopment of an atmosphere and habit of academic debates and the adoption of political practice to academic affairs. People are accustomed to learn and comprehend various reports rather than deliberate, discuss or even criticize them.
We lack academic discussion in its true sense, Zou says. The questions commonly raised at academic discussions are more likely to be those requiring further illucidations rather than doubts of the views exporessed even less for fundamentally different opinions.
It is appropriate to point out mistakes by any scientist including those established scientists, says Zou. However, It is not right to deny someone' s scientific contributions as a whole just because of a single mistake he or her makes.
Both criticism and counter-criticism should be encourged, contends Zou. The political practice in the "Cultural Revolution" should be abolished. The academic truth could only be clarified through presenting the facts and reason things out by regular and repeated debates.
Zou suggests that a column "letters from readers," like those in many western journals, be established in China' s academic journals to carry different academic views and replies. As long as the views sound reasonable, academic journals should not object to their publication.