Li Ning, a professor at China Agricultural University and an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, has been arrested for embezzling national scientific research funds. Six other professors from four universities have also been detained for the same offence.
It is saddening that the 52-year-old agricultural professor, who has made outstanding achievements in cloning technology and other fields, should have sunk so low, but we also share the view with many others that something needs to be done to straighten up the way the country's scientific research funds are used.
The seven professors were found to have embezzled the money the State allocated for their research when their accounts were audited by the National Audit Office. They are all leading researchers engaged in key scientific research projects supported by large sums of money from the State coffers.
It has long been said that professors and researchers who are in charge of important national research projects have a lot of money at their disposal, and there have been previous examples of such funds being misappropriated. The biggest scandal was the arrest of a professor who used his research funds to purchase an apartment for his mistress.
A scholar or a researcher should abstain from the temptation of material gains, which will distract them from and shake their dedication to their studies and research, which has long been a tradition of Chinese culture.
In addition, since this field has a lot to do with education of students, including their moral education, professors and researchers, apart from conducting research, need to set a good example to their students. They not only teach students in terms of academia. They should also teach their students how to behave properly.
It is obviously beyond imagination that professors who embezzle research funds by taking advantage of their positions as leading researchers can set a good example for the students they teach.
Of course, it is not that some professors were morally corrupt at the very beginning. But there are too many temptations and systematic loopholes that have made it very easy for them to divert research funds for other purposes or for their own use.
It is high time that something was done to thoroughly overhaul the management of research funds and to identify and then plug the loopholes in the system. This will ensure professors and researchers are not tempted to misuse the money intended for the benefit of the country.
Chinese colleges have long been blamed for being bureaucracies, in which those with official titles have almost unlimited power. The higher the rank, the more research funds the person controls. All supervision mechanisms have proven in vain against power in this hierarchical system. To end college corruption it is necessary to get rid of the bureaucracy first.
Professor Yang Yusheng, a member of Ministry of Education Academic Morality Committee, caixin.com, Oct 11
Research burns money, it is not uncommon for one single programme to involve over 100 million yuan ($16.3 million) nowadays. However, the management of research funds is still done the traditional way, with researchers paying the costs and then submitting a claim for reimbursement. As a result, financial staff often face piles of receipts, which are rather difficult to check. Why not introduce an electronic financial system to close this loophole?
xinhuanet.com, Oct 12
As the youngest Academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering, Li Ning is an excellent researcher, widely renowned for his academic ability. His case is only the tip of the huge iceberg of college corruption in China. Many ask why Chinese scientists cannot get the Nobel Prize; corruption is the answer.
Laoyu Commentary, via Sina micro blog, Oct 11
Researchers who obtained illegal profits should, of course, pay for their crime, but we need to look deeper for the reason for their corruption. Professors and researchers do not get high salaries in China and many of them turn to research funds to raise their living standards. The income mechanism of college faculties needs reforming to prevent corruption.
Southern Metropolis Daily, Oct 12
Whenever a researcher gets honorary titles, such as that of academician, he will be treated specially by the college he serves and the supervision against his power relaxed. Such unsaid privilege is not honour, but a kind of poison that can spoil them, Li's case should be a warning to all renowned scholars.
iqilu.com, Oct 11