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  • Top Chinese academic under fire from 'science police'


[BEIJING] The latest in a series of Chinese scientists accused of falsifying research is also the highest profile to date.

Wei Yuquan, vice-president of Sichuan University and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, denies the claims.

He has been accused of fabricating data in two key papers on cancer immunology.

On 14 April, Sichuan University announced it would set up a hearing to assess the claim, made by immunology professor Si Lusheng of Xi'an Jiaotong University.

Si published his accusations late last month on the New Threads website, which is famous among China's research community for exposing pseudoscience and academic misconduct.

Wei was unavailable for an interview, but at a news conference in Chengdu on 15 April he denied the accusation, saying it was caused by personal enmity.

The papers in question describe the use of pig tumour cells as therapeutic vaccines to repress the growth of tumours in mice.

Si told SciDev.Net that: "The very rough data make people tend to believe that such an experiment might not have been done."

He says that the hearing proposed by Sichuan University is not the right way to test the credibility of Wei's papers, and that they should be examined by an independent committee.

Wei is the latest addition to a growing list of Chinese researchers whose work has been brought into question by the country's 'science police' — the unofficial watchdogs such as Fang Zhouzi, the former biochemist who runs New Threads (see Out to debunk China's 'science police').

Fang told SciDev.Net that, by exposing academic misconduct, he hopes to encourage the creation of a formal system for ensuring academic ethics in China.

Fang's website has its critics, as it often exposes minor errors and does not give the accused the opportunity to defend themselves.

Last November, Fang accused Qiu Xiaoqing, a professor of biomedicine at Sichuan University, of fabricating research published in 2003 in Nature Biotechnology (see Chinese scientist sues co-authors over fraud claims).

On 15 April, Sichuan University declared that a committee it had assigned to assess Qiu's research had confirmed the validity of his data by successfully repeating his experiment.

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