New Delhi: The former head of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and current president of Nankai University in Tianjin Professor Xuetao Cao is under fire for claims that he has falsified data in several research papers.
The alleged data duplication was first identified by microbiologist and data integrity expert Elisabeth Bik, who flagged manipulated images from papers on PubPeer, a peer-reviewed platform to evaluate scientific research, by a “big-name professor who is a Chinese Academician and president of a top tier Chinese university”.
OK, this is what I found so far. pic.twitter.com/Ivgq9rHfuK
— Elisabeth Bik (@MicrobiomDigest) November 13, 2019
Academician and immunologist Cao Xuetao is a fellow of the German Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Medicine, the US National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award for mentoring in science from the journal Nature.
The allegations are bound to be doubly discomforting for the Chinese scientific community as he has held the distinction of being the youngest medical professor in China, the youngest member of the Chinese academy of engineering and the youngest general in the Chinese armed forces (at different times). Last week, he addressed a crowd of thousands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the topic ‘research integrity’.
In China, if you repost marked duplicated figures from papers by high-level Academicians, your social media account might be suspended. If you are a journalist writing about these cases, the police might come and arrest you.
Criticism of Academicians is not tolerated.
— Elisabeth Bik (@MicrobiomDigest) November 16, 2019
In a Twitter post, Bik also said she was “not accusing anyone of misconduct” and that “these duplications might just be honest errors”. She had previously reported in 2014 a fraudulent paper from Cao’s lab to the journal that published it. After a small correction was issued in 2015, Bik decided to reexamine more of Cao’s published work.
However, after allegations of data manipulation went viral on social media in China, Cao told China Newsweek he would investigate the claims. According to a post on science journalist Leonid Schneider’s blog, Cao also responded to Bik on PubPeer saying he appreciated her “commitment to protecting the accuracy of scientific records and the integrity of research pursuits” and that he would “work with the relevant journal editorial office(s) immediately if our investigation indicates any risk to the highest degree of accuracy of the published records”.