The fast development of China’s postgraduate education has led to a total number of 2 million enrolled graduate students with about 70 000 doctoral degree recipients and 500 000 master’s degree recipients each year (Zhu et al., 2014). The policy adopted by many universities that a certain number of published articles are necessary for their degrees means that almost all the graduate students have started their paper writing and submitting when they are still at school.
Yuan et al. (2015) investigated the articles published in 2012 in certain top Chinese journals. Some of their data are listed in Table 1 to show the contribution rate of China’s postgraduate students.
Contribution rate of China’s postgraduate students in certain top Chinese journals in 2012*
From Table 1, we find that graduate students are highly involved in the articles published in local journals. We can draw a similar conclusion on students’ contribution at the more international level, as indicated by Table 2 (Yuan et al., 2014).
Contribution rate of China’s postgraduate students in ESI-indexed journals during 2011–2012*
However, student authors have their limitations. Apart from the relatively low academic level (which we will not discuss here), they exhibit various problems in the whole process of manuscript writing and publishing, from minor ones such as language and presentation, to the more severe ones like academic misconduct. The poor language and writing skill of China’s new authors have bothered many editors of English journals. Also, graduate students’ names appear frequently in many recently reported cases of academic misconduct, like the Hai-bo HE’s case and the BioMed Central (BMC) retraction case. What’s more, our graduate students do not seem to have a full understanding of academic misconduct. An investigation on 2000 PhD candidates by Dr. Yan-dong ZHAO of the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development finds that half of the respondents had heard of academic misconduct committed by people around them. Thirty-eight percent of respondents think they deserve sympathy and 23% believe they are forgivable (http://jwb.ahpu.edu. cn/s/9/t/153/ad/77/info44407.htm).
Given the data and the example cases above, we believe that China’s graduate students are in great need of systematic education on scientific writing and publishing, which, right now, is poorly implemented by our higher education institutions. So below we shall discuss in detail, based on our knowledge and experience, how the graduate students could be educated during the process of article writing and publishing. On education in academic standards, many scholars have already offered their suggestions (Gao et al., 2007; Zhu et al., 2008). They proposed many useful steps to treat the problem. These refer to points for each of the three constituent groups, i.e., the policy maker (the institution or government agency), the advisor, and the graduate student. What we suggest below is summarized as follows: firstly for the college, it should start some systematic courses, and not by leaving it to possibly little-known college rules; secondly, as well as attending to a student’s academic level or lab skill, an advisor should also cover the student’s skill in article writing and publishing; finally, we discuss the role a journal can play in such expanded education, which is seldom referred to. However, in the process of article publishing, a journal sometimes takes the role of an educator or advisor unconsciously.
2. Practices we propose for colleges and advisors
2.1. What a college can do
In most colleges in China, education in scientific writing is sometimes neglected or often only offered as some optional courses. They seem believe it is the advisors’ obligation to carry this out. The advisors, however, usually tend to concentrate on students’ special courses or other laboratory training. Little attention is paid to their skill in scientific writing and knowledge of article publishing. Thus we believe that a college should set up non-optional courses on these two aspects.
Many forms of minor plagiarism, like cutting and pasting, paraphrasing, and inaccurate citation occurred in article (especially English article) writing, are committed by graduate students unknowingly or innocently. For example, when writing the introduction of an article, new authors usually do not know what should be included. Even when they know what they want to say, new authors are usually awkward in introducing the origin of a subject and organizing references to previous studies. Since such contents are always similar and appear in many existing papers, cutting and pasting thus become an easy solution. Another example is referencing. There are many different styles for this. Each style is different in abbreviation, punctuation, and font (not to mention that many journals require their own special style). A new author is almost certain to make some mistakes. These are points not covered in college’s general English courses and so special English and scientific writing should never be optional. There should be someone to tell the graduate students about all such issues as well as what constitutes misconduct.
Misconduct arising for a technical reason or incorrect understanding can be partly tackled by the above suggestion. More severe cases like duplicate submission, republication in translation, or even essay selling, though sometimes caused by the students’ pressure to get their degrees, should never be forgivable. Many colleges in China set so-called “strict” regulations on academic misconduct. However the power of these regulations, when being implemented, is constantly weakened by the Chinese folk wisdom to handle something peacefully. In contrast, we strongly recommend that colleges take an objective attitude and take the necessary action on each identified case of misconduct.
2.2. What an advisor can do
Many years ago when there was no requirement for publishing, few students published articles on their own. If they did, the articles were usually written in Chinese, which would cause less trouble than English. So for advisors, little attention was paid to such issues. Raising the students’ academic level was almost their only task. Currently, though we believe academic level is the still the most important aspect, advisors have to spare some attention on their students’ article writing and publishing.
The material students get from special English or scientific writing courses is theoretical. They can easily be baffled by all kinds of problems that occur during a real-world writing and publishing process. So we suggest that the advisors offer close step-by-step assistance when students are writing and publishing their first articles. There are always some unwritten rules for each specific research area, which the students should be told to look out at the very beginning. Especially when a student is writing his first English paper, the advisor’s help on language editing is extremely important. In conclusion, the skills a student learns from writing and publishing his first paper will have long and lasting impact on his academic career. This thus deserves the advisor’s special attention.
Another advisor’s task is to see that no academic misconduct is carried out by his student. For this, just words of caution usually are not sufficient. The advisor should first set a good example, showing the student that his advisor is very serious about academic ethics. The student will learn by observing his advisor’s choices and preferences through their daily communication. All these eventually will help the formation of the student’s own standard on misconduct.
Advisors are suggested either to pass some review tasks they receive from journals to their students, or to contact some selected journals for possible review tasks, after the students have successfully published a certain number of articles. The change of roles from authors to referees is very instructive. “It helps me more than I help the journal,” said by Dr. Xin-guo JIANG from Stanford University, a young scholar who is now an Associate Editor of Journal of Zhejiang University-SCIENCE B (Biomedicine & Biotechnology). He said: “The review experiences I got in the last few years from different journals are truly helpful to broaden my knowledge in biomedical research.”
3. New perspective: the journal’s role
In recent years, due to the boom in numbers of submissions, many editorial offices, especially those of high-level journals, receive far more papers than they can publish. A simple solution to this is to reject some of the submissions which the editors believe will not be good enough, without any specific academic reason (or sometimes, apparently, no reason at all or at least for what appears to be an arbitrary reason). This has been a very common practice whenever an editor notices that the manuscript is from some student author and does contain some elementary errors. For the student author, such an experience can be very demotivating and depressing. What could make a difference is, instead of a rejection letter with no specific reason, the editor may briefly point out the main shortcomings of the paper and provide some useful suggestions on how to revise. Soon the editor will find that basically he is giving similar suggestions to different authors. Thus an email template will often be adequate to help such authors.
During the review process, usually many student authors are not sufficiently patient. They will inquire more often than necessary the status of their submissions. Many editors usually ignore such inquiries. What we suggest here is to answer them, but also to tell the students to be patient, making them aware that being patient is something an experienced author must know.
After acceptance of a paper, a student author may still face various problems, which could be solved through insightful guidance from a copy editor. After all, there should be someone to tell our graduate students that scientific writing is very different from the daily language they are using, and how many times a paper needs to be proofread before publishing.
Even if his scientific writing course and advisor’s teaching have covered all the above issues from manuscript preparation to the proof before publication, a new author would only mature after he has gone through all the above editorial processes and published his first paper.
Not only would the student authors learn from proper communication during the whole editorial process, but also a journal’s regulations and workflows on academic misconduct would teach them a special lesson.
Plagiarism is a very common type of misconduct committed by many student authors. It varies from the minor form of cutting and pasting things like introductions, to the severe such as duplication. Many types of plagiarism can now be detected using iTheticate. Prof. Yue-hong ZHANG in her new book Against Plagiarism (Zhang, 2015), has already proposed systematic editorial workflows to treat different forms of plagiarism. We do not think we can do it better. Therefore we refer the readers to Chapter 10 of her book. The attitude behind those workflows is that plagiarism, even in its minor form, once detected, should always be corrected. The authors who commit plagiarism would certainly become educated once they go through those workflows.
Duplicate submission and republication in translation are often committed by China’s student authors. Republication in translation is characterized as one form of plagiarism by Yue-hong ZHANG and is well discussed in the book Against Plagiarism (Zhang, 2015). Here we shall focus on duplicate submission. Almost all graduate students in China are required to publish a certain number of articles before they can get their degrees. Time for this is limited, so after finishing the writing, some students will submit the articles to two or more journals at the same time, wait for one journal to accept their papers, and then withdraw the submissions from the other ones. Such misconduct, though serious, seems hard to detect by a single editorial office. However, there is a possibility that the paper is sent to a same referee by two different journals. In addition, it is suggested to editors that they keep an eye out for certain abnormal withdrawals, by for example, doing a similarity check using iThenticate after couple of months. If these papers finally get published in other journals, the misconduct can easily be identified by tracking the submission date marked on the article. Duplicate submission is a deliberate misconduct thus should be reported and undoubtedly punished.
Our journals (Journal of Zhejiang University-SCIENCE (A/B)/Frontiers of Information Technology & Electronic Engineering) are the first in China to detect plagiarism using iThenticate. We have faced disagreement from many authors and even some editors. However, we persevere and insist on our procedures since to be against plagiarism is an international trend, and more and more international journals are using iThenticate to detect plagiarism. The new generation of Chinese authors should be prepared for this. The suggestions we have made in this section, though proposed in the name of postgraduate education, actually will benefit the journals themselves in the long run. The emotional attachment to a journal from its author group is certainly an invisible treasure.
*Project supported by the Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (No. LY16A010013)
Compliance with ethics guidelines: Chun-jie ZHANG and Yuan ZHU declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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The foreign aid arena in Africa has traditionally been dominated by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. However, over the past three decades non-traditional donors such as China, have emerged.
The increasing importance of non-traditional donors has meant that the economic and political stronghold of western countries in sub-Saharan Africa has gradually ebbed. China is now the largest non-traditional contributor of aid to sub-Saharan African countries.
In the 1960s Africa provided China with an opportunity to increase its political and diplomatic reach. Chinese interest in the continent came about in part as a result of political tensions between China and the Soviet Union as well as increased American and Japanese competition in Asia. In addition to political motives, Africa presented China with economic opportunities. While the initial motive for Chinese aid was to strengthen diplomatic ties, the resource motive became an important factor.
China’s aid policy
At the onset, China’s aid policy was premised on equality between partners, mutual benefit, respect for sovereignty, respect for obligations and enhancing the self-reliance of Chinese aid recipients. According to China’s 2011 white paper on foreign aid:
The main areas of support for China has been in projects in agriculture, industry, economic infrastructure, public facilities, education and medical and health care, with the intent on improving recipient countries’ industrial and agricultural productivity, laying a solid foundation for their economic and social development, and improving basic education and health care.
China’s aid policy in Africa underwent major reforms between 1994 and 1995. These were effected in three main ways:
New instruments that linked aid, trade and investment between China and Africa were introduced and implemented,
Programmes that combined foreign aid with economic cooperation were developed and financed, and
China refined its portfolio of tools to aid domestic restructuring.
The restructuring also saw the creation of three policy banks. These were China’s development Bank, China Export-Import bank and China Agricultural Development bank. They were all state owned and enabled the government to provide targeted finance. The new policy opened the door to an economic and trade strategy. It enabled Chinese investments in manufacturing and agriculture, and growth in Chinese assembly factories. It also created increased demand for Chinese exports and allowed China’s incursion into the exploration and investment in minerals and forest resources in Africa.
Resources as a driver
By 1976 Chinese resource interest was apparent in numerous sub-Saharan African countries. Examples include the construction of the Tan Zam railroad in Zambia in part to facilitate China’s access to copper. There was also the construction of roads in countries like Ethiopia to assist the movement of cotton exports to China. China’s view of the resource possibilities in sub-Saharan Africa continues today.
Since 2001 the need to boost Chinese domestic economic growth has further driven China’s interest in sub-Saharan Africa’s natural resources.
Examining what drives Chinese aid allocation to sub-Saharan Africa, empirical evidence suggests that China provides more foreign aid to oil-rich sub-Saharan African countries than those that are not oil rich. Almost half of the top ten recipients of Chinese aid in the past ten years gave access to oil wells and granted first rights to prospect for oil in return. Examples include Angola and Nigeria.
Providing billions in debt relief
From 2000 onwards China further cemented itself as a major aid role player in Africa. It established the forum on China–Africa cooperation (FOCAC) which included 44 African countries. It undertook to provide financing for debt relief, training programmes and investments. The China-Africa Business Council was also established, which negotiated the cancellation of US$1.2 billion in debt.
A number of developments made 2006 a watershed year. These included:
the publication of a white paper on African policy,
the announcement that debt of $1.4 billion would be cancelled,
the creation of a $5 billion fund made up of soft and commercial loans;
an undertaking to double aid by 2009, and
an agreement to build 30 hospitals and train 15,000 people.
Between 2000 and 2012, China undertook more than 1,700 projects in over 50 African countries amounting to upwards of $75 billion. While this amount is less than the $90 billion committed by the US in the same period, it still represents a significant alternative source of aid financing for the continent.
Where the money goes
China’s aid in sub-Saharan Africa is varied and can be found in almost all sectors from telecommunication to health. The largest amount of aid funding goes towards the transport, storage, energy and communications sectors. A significant share, about 70%, is geared towards infrastructure development.
Chinese aid in infrastructure outweighs that of other donors. It accounts for over 30% of total value of infrastructure projects in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa’s education and health sectors have also benefited significantly. But the amount committed to these two sectors lags behind others such as transport and energy. This is possibly due to the fact that a significant amount of western aid is focused on these two sectors (see table 1).
In terms of the largest sub-Saharan Africa recipients of Chinese aid, Nigeria, Ghana and Sudan have been the top recipients in the past decade. The three countries combined received about $250 million in aid. The majority goes to energy infrastructure such as oil pipelines.
Governance myth debunked
Prominent in the aid debate is the notion that western donor countries are more concerned about the degree of governance in recipient countries. Their Chinese counterparts are assumed to overlook the level and type of governance.
At first glance this might be seen to be true. But it is not necessarily the case.
For both types of donors, recipient country governance is important. This conclusion is drawn from looking at the determinants of American and Chinese foreign aid to 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of the US, both political rights and civil liberty are considerations in its aid allocation decisions to the region. For China, political rights are more important than civil liberty in influencing who receives aid.
Although the benefits of Chinese aid in sub-Saharan Africa are clear in health and infrastructure projects, including the provision of medicine, the training of health workers as well as the construction of transport infrastructure, there are some drawbacks to the aid. While China provides aid for different projects over a wide spectrum, for the most part it is focused on a few specific sectors. As a result pertinent issues that enable domestic resource generation in the region are not necessarily addressed. This suggests that there is a need to re-assess the type of Chinese aid sub-Saharan countries accept and to make sure that the aid ties in with these countries’ development agendas.
This is an extract from a working paper titled “The political and economic dynamics of foreign aid: A case study of United States and Chinese aid to Sub-Sahara Africa”. [Kafayat Amusa, Nara Monkam and Nicola Viegi]