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Academicians Could Lose Status for Ethics Lapses

The title of academician, a lifetime highest honor for Chinese scholars, can be revoked if academicians have ethical problems, according to an amended regulation on the selection and management of academicians at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering approved the amendment on Wednesday, and it is seen as the latest move to improve the flawed academician system.

Li Qingshan, a spokesman for the academy, confirmed the amendment.

The title of academician is the highest honor for a scholar in China, but a series of scandals involving academicians has triggered public concern over the academician system.

In January, China Central Television reported that Wang Zhengmin, an academician and professor at the Eye and ENT Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, purchased an Australian-made artificial cochlea - a spiral tube in the inner ear that is essential to hearing - and copied the technology for a product produced in China.

Four of the six academicians who recommended Wang as a candidate for academician status in 2005 wrote a letter in October, saying that he should be disqualified.

Wang has retained his academician title while the Academic Committee of Fudan University conducts an investigation of his papers and the artificial-cochlea products.

"If academicians have done something wrong, they should be punished or get their title revoked," said Yuan Yaxiang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in applied mathematics.

Improving the academician selection and management system was also mentioned by President Xi Jinping in his speech at the opening ceremony of the 17th conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the 12th conference of the CAE at the Great Hall of the People.

Xi said it was decided during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that the system should be reformed and the selection and management of academicians should be modified to protect the honor and dignity of academicians.

Both CAS President Bai Chunli and CAE President Zhou Ji have promised to reform the system. All academicians in China are members of the CAS and the CAE.

The reform proposals were put forward at the biennial conferences of the CAS and the CAE in 2012, which included making the title of academician an honor with no material benefits, keeping the selection process independent and clearly defining the rights and responsibilities of those providing recommendations. (China Daily)

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