Cao Xuetao. (File photo: VCG)
Cao Xuetao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of Nankai University, is under investigation for suspected misconduct. Academic misconduct is a serious issue that relates not only to the reputation of the researchers but also the entire academic community, which requires exhaustive investigation to clarify the facts. China Daily writer Wang Yiqing comments:
US researcher Elisabeth Bik claimed to have found traces of possible inappropriate "image duplication" in the graph results in 18 papers supervised by Cao. On foreign academic exchange platform PubPeer, more than 40 papers with possible image duplications have Cao's name among the paper authors.
On Sunday night, Cao posted a response to Bik on PubPeer, which said the papers in question are studies conducted at the National Key Laboratory of Medical Immunology and Institute of Immunology at the Second Military Medical University, and he is the corresponding author of the papers, which means that he was responsible for overseeing the research.
Cao said he has already taken steps to look into the concerns with his team and the are re-examining the manuscripts and raw data and lab records. He said he "remains confident about the validity and strength of the scientific conclusions made in the publications and the work's reproducibility", but "there's no excuse for any lapse in supervision or laboratory leadership".
On Monday, the Chinese Academy of Engineering said it was launching an investigation into Cao's papers. And the first authors of four papers have successively responded to the queries by providing original research data.
As the investigation is ongoing, Bik stressed to the media that she will not arrive at any conclusion at present. But not only academic circles but also the public are waiting for the final result of the investigation, because it involves academic integrity and the reputation of the entire academic community in China.
Academic integrity is the basis of academic development and social progress, because only academic integrity can guarantee the objectivity and effectiveness of academic research. Any academic misconduct will damage mutual trust within the academic community.
It is necessary for the researchers to directly respond to the queries and clear the air by providing solid research records and proofs. And if any academic misconduct is confirmed, the relevant organizations should seriously punish the wrongdoers in order to safeguard academic integrity.