Frenzy for foreign title misses local talent
IT'S been a particularly fruitful week for "science cop" Fang Zhouzi, a belligerent exposer of academic frauds.
Last Wednesday, the Medical College of Xiamen University said it had fired Fu Jin, a 45-year-old professor just embarking on a brilliant career at the prestigious university, because her doctorate from Columbia University was verified to have been forged.
The false academic laurels have already earned her numerous substantial benefits including a professorship, generous research subsidies, and, to some degree, publication of several influential papers in learned journals.
Apparently, Fang did not find the existing expose sufficiently challenging.
Acting on allegations of Fu's misdeeds by someone who had worked at Columbia University, Fang compared two versions of Fu's resume on the Xiamen University website, and was surprised to find that Fu got her doctorate in two specialties from Columbia.
"How can a doctorate holder get mixed up about the discipline she specialized in?" Fang wondered.
Fang's pursuit of the case blighted the early promise Fu has already shown in her brief tenure with Xiamen University.
Eight graduate students Fu had been supervising are now deprived of the benefit of her guidance. A US laboratory where Fu had worked is now busy checking up on her research findings.
Fall of a rising scientist
Just three days after this exposure, Fang's accusation led to the fall of Lu Jun, another rising scientist with the Beijing University of Chemical Engineering. The school website announced that Lu had been sacked, disqualified from China's Recruitment Program of Global Experts for serious academic misconduct.
Lu is guilty of falsifying his educational background, overseas work experience, and passing off as his own academic papers authored by three scientists whose names sound the same as Lu's.
The exposures is deeply embarrassing not just for the schools in question, but also for the education watchdog perennially engaged in inventing new programs and projects, in its eagerness to create world-class universities and produce world-class talent.
The Education authorities would be shocked to find frauds of this degree. They would also be shocked to learn that their arrogant obsession with status and top international universities and talent has encouraged such rampant frauds and falsifications.
As a matter of fact, people like Lu and Fu shrewdly perceive the superstition about the excellence of anything "from overseas," and they are too eager to woo anyone ornamented with fancy titles at overseas universities, just as some domestic soccer clubs are eager to buy international star players.
Once anointed by joining prestige projects, the lucky imports would, nilly-willy, be put on the fast track to fame and fortune, and their achievements would then help establish the fame of the school.
The blind belief in the superiority of anything Western results from ignorance not only about the West, but also, importantly, China. It suggests total failure of education, which is supposed to aim, first of all, to inculcate the values of an honest and upright person.
The relevant schools are also guilty of procedural negligence. For instance, Xiamen University in recruiting Fu clearly ignored the ministerial rule that overseas diplomas must be verified by relevant Chinese consulates.
Even if the introduced scientists hold authentic credentials, it's hard to see their achievements as native progress in science and technology. On the contrary, the practice of pursuing overseas talent is damaging ? in the long term ? the growth and cultivation of local talent, by wasting the resources that might have been used in fostering indigenous scholars.
I was reminded of some 98 century-old crape myrtle trees that had been transplanted last November from Vietnam to Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, at a cost of 400,000 yuan (US$62,693). They were all dead by July 17. These trees are just the first phase of an ambitious plan to transplant 250 such trees to Hefei, at a cost of 100 million yuan.
How many saplings native to Hefei could be planted with just a fraction of that astronomical sum?
By Wan Lixin
01 August 2012