Heads roll as ‘mind power’ egg scandal rocks China

Local authorities are investigating after a Chinese journal published a paper claiming students had been able to hatch a chick from a boiled egg.Pexels

CHINA – A vocational college in China has been shut down after its principal claimed her students used “mind power ” to produce chicks from boiled eggs. The journal which published the claims has also been closed.

Guo Ping, who founded the college, was lead author of a paper outlining the experiments and their extraordinary results which was published last month in tourism journal Pictorial Geography.

Guo’s article caused a national scandal after receiving wide attention on China’s social media. State broadcaster CCTV and Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily questioned how it could have been published at all.

“Peeling back this ‘revived’ boiled egg, [we] see the cliched trick of scammers, and profits from shady business models. We also need to reflect on how such a ‘finding’ could have been published in an academic journal. What kind of a journal is this?” a People’s Daily column said on Tuesday.

“Our society does not allow a deceitful shell. Science cannot tolerate a lying egg.”

According to People’s Daily, this was not the first time Guo had published bizarre claims. Previous papers include how to grow sprouts from cooked beans, and how to make objects go through walls.

Guo initially defended herself before apologising and resigning in the face of heavy public criticism. Her college, Chunlin Education in the central city of Zhengzhou, has been shut down for rectification, according to local authorities.

An investigation by authorities in the northern province of Jilin found Pictorial Geography had illegally accepted payment for publishing the article. It also breached publication standards and its business permit by accepting academic papers outside its stated category, and failing to apply a review process.

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According to state news agency Xinhua, the journal’s director has resigned, and authorities are now investigating the legal responsibilities of anyone involved. It is not known if Guo will face legal action.

The scandal has renewed concerns about China’s shady for-profit academic publishing industry, in which some journals bypass the usual review processes for scientific and research papers in exchange for payment.

Party magazine Banyuetan reported that Pictorial Geography published 52 issues in 2020. With about 300 articles in each issue, that meant it had published 15,000 papers in one year.

The report quoted an unnamed industry insider acknowledging that such a tremendous number of papers should not be possible for an academic journal to publish. “But journals need publishing fees to keep operating, so the more the better.”

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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