The People’s Republic of China is making great strides in scientific discovery but the quality of its academic research is, well, uneven. Chinese researchers are apparently guilty of widespread plagiarism.

According to an article by Louisa Lim at NPR:

China is forecast to become the world’s leading innovator this year, overtaking the United States and Japan in number of patent filings, according to Thomson Reuters. More scientific papers come out of China than out of any other country but the U.S., and Chinese leaders vow it will be a research superpower by 2020.

But repeated scientific fraud scandals continue to bedevil China’s reputation as an innovator. Zhang and others say blame lies in part with traditional Chinese culture, which values rote memorization and repetition and holds that copying a teacher’s work is a way of learning.

In 2008 the Journal of Zhejiang University-Science became the first academic publication in the country to use text analysis software to check for plagiarism. The results were disturbing. The editor found that 31 percent of papers had “unreasonable copy[ing] and plagiarism” problems. And apparently almost 40 percent of papers in computer science and life sciences were plagiarized.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer