Cambridge University Press finds a spine

It took a while but Cambridge University Press is standing up to Chinese censorship

And about time too: On the weekend, Cambridge University Press agreed to delete 315 articles from its China Quarterly from the CUP appears in the People’s Republic – mind you, the press promised to speak sternly to the comrades who demanded the deletions.

But now CUP has found its previously mislaid spine and will repost the offending articles. Tom Pringle, editor of China Quarterly thinks this is a thoroughly good thing, coming after;

“a justifiably intense reaction from the global academic community and beyond. Access to published materials of the highest quality is a core component of scholarly research. It is not the role of respected global publishing houses to hinder such access. The China Quarterly will continue to publish such articles that make it through our rigorous double blind peer review regardless of topic or sensitivity. Our publication criteria will not change: scientific rigour and the contribution to knowledge about China.”

Good, but not good enough:  So that’s alright then. No its not. Certainly this looks like a case of a bunch of overzealous officials banned research articles and book reviews with Tiannmen and Tibet in titles, because they thought the Politburo would want to. But the problem with authoritarian states is that there are always officials everywhere who like to throw their weight around. As far as CMM knows this has never been a problem for Australian Confucius Institutes, but CUP’s problem demonstrates how it could be.

China is also having trouble with the ideals of research.  CC and YY demonstrate that university managements are gaming research publication. Researchers Wei Quan, (Wuhan University) Bikun Chen, (Nanjing University of Science and Technology), and Fei Shu, (McGill University)  warn cash incentives for publication in top journals occurs at 168 prestigious universities. This can lead to research fraud, plus citation and publication gaming among ambitious but often underpaid academics.

The problem when governments do not accept the rules of research independence is that research isn’t always independent of what powerful people want.