National Science Review 5: 299, 2018 EDITORIAL doi: 10.1093/nsr/nwy036 Advance access publication 4 April 2018 Ethics in pace with scientiﬁc progress ∗ ∗ Zhonghe Zhou and Mu-ming Poo The rapid growth in the number of scientific publications from should be regulated in certain research areas, such as the applica- China has been accompanied by increasing incidents of scien- tion of gene-editing methods on human embryos for correcting tific misconduct, particularly in biomedical sciences. Most no- genetic disorders, the use of stem cells for therapeutic purposes tably in April 2017, the journal Tumor Biology retracted 107 pa- and, more recently, the cloning of a primate species. In terms of pers from China, based mostly on a fraudulent peer-review pro- gene manipulation and stem-cell therapies, current ethics rules cess. In response to this incident, the Ministry of Science and in China are in line with those of international communities, in Technology (MOST) and China Association for Science and both the safety issue and the restraints on experimentation with Technology (CAST) issued a stern instruction for punitive mea- human tissues and embryos (see Natl Sci Rev 2016; 3: 257–61). sures to all relevant organizations, including all forms of miscon- We note, however, that society’s attitudes and government reg- duct in publications. ulations are evolving, and one such recent examples is approval It has often been asked whether China lacks the same ethical for the genetic modification of mitochondrial DNA in human standards in scientific research as those in more advanced coun- embryos in several countries, beginning with the UK. tries of the West. The answer to this question may be complex. Progress in frontier science and technology has greatly ‘No’, there are strict rules at the level of government agencies— improved the quality of life for human societies, but both the National Natural Science Foundation of China and consideration of ethical issues accompanying the progress Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have long established de- have not always been kept in check. This is not limited to tailed regulations and guidelines, in which misconduct in ‘fabri- biomedical sciences. Rapid progress in artificial intelligence cation, falsification, and plagiarism’ is clearly defined and puni- (AI) and neural modulation technology, among many other tive measures are listed. However, the answer could also be ‘yes’, areas, has raised urgent ethical concerns: whether and how the because these rules have seldom been rigorously executed. society may regulate AI technologies that infringe upon human Many research institutions in China have not established ob- rights and livelihood. It would be useful to have international jective and reliable mechanisms to investigate cases of alleged discussion and consensus on these issues at the level of the misconduct, and are often reluctant to deliver a definitive ver- United Nations. dict on cases of misconduct and to impose appropriate punitive Cultural factors will influence the extent and pace at which measures. This institutional tolerance and the lack of punitive each society adapts to the international consensus. Even within measures, together with the system that evaluates a researcher a society, religious beliefs have caused a major split of opinions mainly by the number of publications, could have contributed over issues such as induced abortion. As Chinese science in- to the high frequency of misconduct in scientific publications creases its weight on the world scene, Chinese scientists ought to (see Natl Sci Rev 2015; 2: 122–5). The timely instruction of participate fully in the international discussions on issues of sci- MOST and CAST that specifically addresses punitive measures, entific ethics, in order to reach international consensus. We fore- if further enforced by governmental oversight mechanisms, see a future in which Chinese scientists are not only conformers, will have a long-lasting effect in ensuring ethics in scientific but also active contributors to the international consensus on publication. ethics in scientific exploration and technological development. One area in which progress remains slow in China is the re- quirement for graduate-school education to include courses on Zhonghe Zhou scientific ethics. It is important for beginner researchers to have Director of Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, CAS clear ideas not only on the definition of scientific misconduct, Associate Editor-in-Chief of NSR but also on proper practices in data collection, analysis and all forms of scientific communications. Regulations on scientific Mu-ming Poo ethics must be combined with educational efforts in order to de- Director of CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence velop a culture of scientific integrity in research institutions. Technology Aside from misconduct in scientific publications, there are Executive Editor-in-Chief of NSR ethical issues concerning whether and how experimental studies Corresponding authors. E-mails: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of China Science Publishing & Media Ltd. All rights reserved. For permissions, plea se e-mail: email@example.com Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-abstract/5/3/299/4961143 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 21 June 2018
National Science Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 4, 2018
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