By Richard McGregor in Beijing
Published: May 14 2006 19:25 | Last updated: May 14 2006 19:25
China’s scientific establishment has been shaken by the sacking of a dean at one its most prestigious universities for falsely claiming to have invented a much-praised “indigenous”? computer chip.
The scandal coincides with a concerted push by the central government to put “innovation”? at the heart of an economic development model which has so far relied on imported technology.
The government wants to ensure that as the economy becomes enmeshed with the rest of world – and its rules governing intellectual property rights – that China develops its own commercial technologies rather than buying in from overseas.
The country has poured substantial government research funds into fields such as biotech, telecoms, nuclear power and chip design in an effort to develop technology.
Jiaotong University in Shanghai said late on Friday it had fired Chen Jin, dean of the Microelectronics School, for faking research behind a series of chips for digital signals processing.
Mr Chen was also the general manager of the Hanxin Sci-Tech, the company that produced the chips.
The university and later the government launched an investigation into the Hanxin chip series after receiving a letter in December from a whistle-blower alleging that Mr Chen had faked the research behind it.
Xinhua, the official news agency, said Mr Chen had “fooled”? technical appraisal teams from the university and government ministries that had funded his project into believing that he had developed the chips himself.
“On the basis of the investigation summaries, the university concluded that Chen’s deeds had flouted academic ethical codes and the university constitution, and had brought the research community into disrepute,”? the Xinhua statement said.
Mr Chen’s chip was neither based on technology he said he had developed himself, nor could it perform the functions he claimed for it, the short statement said.
The 21st Century Business Herald, a respected newspaper that has pursued the case, reported that Mr Chen had taken chips produced by Freescale Semiconductor, formerly a unit of Motorola, and then used low-paid migrant workers to scrub its trademarks off and replace them with that of Hanxin. Neither company was available for comment.
Mr Chen’s own project had received Rmb114m ($14.2m) for research to develop the Hanxin chips. Xinhua said he had been asked to pay back the money.
It also said Mr Chen had been banned from conducting any further state research projects but did not say whether he would be prosecuted or punished further over the episode.
“Jiaotong University has warned its professors and researchers to be disciplined and to comply with ethical codes in scientific research,”? Xinhua said.
The university, whose famous graduates include Jiang Zemin, the former president, said it strongly supported “the severe actions taken by relevant government departments”?.
“In the future, the school will strengthen its management of research and its oversight of research funds.”?