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Journals no place for personal essays

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-14 08:50
JIN DING/CHINA DAILY

"My teacher, an academician for 20 years, has made fruitful progress that elicits envy. His wife is so elegant and has a character so mild that her existence grants us a feeling of beauty." Reads like a student's memoir? Well, believe it or not, the sentences appeared in an article in the Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology in 2013.

The report further read: "This essay discusses the greatness of my teacher and the beauty of his wife, the basis for construction of a path applicable universally."

These sentences were not in the credit section, but in the summary and the general text. The entire 30-page report was devoted to it. The issue became a hot topic for discussion after snapshots of the report were posted online on Saturday.

Many researchers and graduate students registered their discontent, and not without reason. Academic journals are important platforms for researchers to share their knowledge. They should only be used to publish essays that offer readers some food for thought. To devote more than 30 pages of an "essay" to something that has no academic value is surely a waste of resources.

Besides, academic journals have a bearing on an academic's career. The number of essays a lecturer publishes decides whether he or she can be promoted as associate professor and then professor. Sometimes, postgraduate students are required to publish at least one essay for graduation.

The "teacher" in the above essay is Chen Guodong, who was chief editor of the journal. Not being worth of any academic value apart, the whole essay reeks of vested interests.

On Sunday, the media department of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which publishes the journal, admitted that the essay "lacks academic value" and had been junked. Also, an investigation has been ordered to determine whether vested interest was behind its publication. Chen resigned as the editor of the journal, and his resignation was promptly accepted.

Whatever the result of the investigation, it is hoped the case sends a warning to all academics to focus on sharpening their minds and improving their research quality, which in turn can help promote the country's development.

 

  
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