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Academician Zhang Qifa’s Advise: Taking Science as Our Mission

“Why should we do scientific research? Why should we have academic pursuit? These questions are hard to reply, but one possible answer is to understand and change the world, which is a high-level pursuit. However, another answer could be to publish research articles and graduate and find a decent job. And I believe the majority of the students here would agree with the latter one and only the minority would approve the former.

On the afternoon of Sep 18, Prof. Zhang Qifa, an academician of CAS gave a lecture on scientific ethics and academic norms to nearly 300 newly-enrolled graduates in the lecture hall of HZAU International Exchange Center. He gave them advice on how to keep records in the scientific research process and how to follow the academic standards and norms of scientific writings as well as warnings against academic misconducts, such as publishing one article twice by changing both the title and the authors, replacing the first author with the corresponding author and vice versa. Copying and fabricating others’ published articles into one’s own though s/he neither did the experiments nor wrote the research papers could be even worse academic misconducts to blame.

Prof. Zhang analyzes the motivations behind the misconducts. “There are three categories of people doing scientific research: one is to take science as his/her mission, another is to take science as his/her job for a living, and still another is to take doing scientific research as a trade or business. If you take science as your mission you will try your best to do the work, follow the norms and strive to be innovative. If you take it as a job, you would just do it to support your family, without taking great trouble exploring the unknown scientific questions. If you take it as a trade or business, you neither set the target nor have the sense of mission to create new knowledge. Instead you play with the old tricks.”

Mr. Zhang advises that universities and institutions educate both teachers and students to follow the academic norms while punishing the academic misconducts. Universities and higher education institutions should raise students’ and researchers’ awareness of the harm of academic misconducts. They should form the battle line against academic misconducts, create a positive, honest and upward academic environment, and at the same time set up rules and disciplines to ensure that academic misconducts are strictly punished and never tolerated.

Prof. Zhang also advises the graduate students to take science as their mission by constantly pursuing new knowledge by analyzing new things, raising new questions, and adopting new approaches. To foster innovation, the most crucial is to seek truth from facts.

HZAU was listed as one of the pilots to foster high scientific ethics and academic morale by China Association for Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education in 2015. It is the only university on the list in Hubei province and among universities of agricultural and forestry in the whole nation. Up to now, HZAU has constituted relevant rules and regulations such as “HZAU Academic Standards and Norms,” “Specifications of Management on Academic Ethics and Norms for Graduate Students of HZAU,” “Provisional Measures for the Punishment of Academic Misconducts”, etc. The documents clearly state and define academic and legal obligations pertinent to academic research, academic title evaluation, project review, research results assessment, research paper publication, graduation paper evaluation and oral defense, as well as specifications of the punishment for academic misconducts.

(By Zhang Li)