In China, foreign awards face growing cynicism among academic community after European institution controversy 在中国,欧洲机构的争议引发了学术界对外国奖项日益增长的怀疑 | SCMP 南华早报

On the afternoon of April 21, an institution called the European Academy of Natural Sciences (EANS) held a ceremony in Beijing to welcome its new members.

It was a grand occasion. The vice-president of the academy presented six Chinese scholars with membership certificates and gold badges, and Nobel laureate Thomas C. Südhof, a German-American biochemist, posed with them for a photo.

An article published the next day by a consulting firm called the China Development Research Institute showed a picture of Südhof with the institute’s president, Wang Tong, who was holding a certificate after he had been elected an “academician”. The article said Südhof congratulated Wang in a speech.

But in recent days, the legitimacy and authority of the academy as well as its awards have sparked a tsunami of controversy in China, with a growing number of mainland media outlets and members of the research community questioning whether it is an academic honour or a business deal.

Some investigations have revealed that it is possible to pay to join the academy. Domestic media outlet Hongxing Xinwen, for example, consulted an agency that provides application services and was told that applicants could definitely be selected by paying 180,000 yuan (US$24,900).

The criticism and suspicion surrounding this honour signals a growing cynicism and immunity to foreign awards in Chinese society: as the country gradually emerges as a global leader in science and technology, honours bestowed by Western countries are now subject to more scrutiny.

“It is now time to critically examine the phenomenon of [worshipping] ‘foreign academicians’,” a social media user said.

According to the Post’s investigation, dozens of Chinese people have become academicians of EANS in the past few months, including some respected figures in academia, ranging from professors at China’s top universities to researchers at government research institutes and clinicians at major hospitals.

For example, Ma Fanhua, an associate researcher with Tsinghua University’s school of vehicle and mobility, was elected an academician in December 2023.

Many statements describe the academy, which is based in Hanover, Germany, as “one of the most respected and influential scientific organisations” with more than 1,700 academicians, many of whom are also recipients of world-renowned prizes including the Nobel Prize, the Einstein Prize and the Copernicus Award.

The EANS website, which is mainly in Russian, said in an article on May 3 that it is “not state-owned” like the Chinese or Russian Academy of Sciences, and “we invite the scientists whose work is of academic value and whose achievements benefit people”.

In Europe, however, the most widely recognised research academy is the Academia Europaea founded in 1988, a London-based pan-European academy covering all fields of scholarly inquiry, which serves as an official adviser to the European Union.

In an email response to the Post, Thomas Südhof stressed that he had never heard of the European Academy of Natural Sciences and had no connection with it. He said he was not invited by EANS, but did not give the exact name of the organiser.

Südhof is a neuroscientist at the Stanford School of Medicine who won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2013.

According to Südhof and his Chinese collaborator Ellie Wang, he was invited to speak at an event in China where he was unexpectedly asked to participate in an impromptu photo session with people associated with the event organiser.

He said he had congratulated the recipients on their awards as a matter of courtesy, although he had “no idea what these awards were”.

He also expressed the feeling of being “deceived and tricked” when the Post brought the issue to his attention, as the organiser of the event had implied his affiliation with the “academy” by using the photos.

In Chinese academia, honour and fame often come with other privileges, such as an advantage in applying for research funding.

A scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who asked not to be named, said that it was unlikely that researchers were unaware of the real value of the honours they were applying for, but they were motivated by the potential benefits.

The scientist said he had also been approached in March by an agency inviting him to apply to join the academy.

On Wednesday, an article published by the China Association for Science and Technology wrote that domestic research institutions should clean up fake titles and paid honours, avoid supporting opportunists and giving resources to them.

Under the article, one commenter wrote that he had received similar application invitations many times, and one time in particular, when he asked if it was free or not, he was told he needed to pay 350,000 yuan.

The Post tried to contact the academy’s Chinese representative, Wu Jihua, but did not receive a response.

In his interview with Hongxin Xinwen last week, Wu denied that the academy’s qualifications were for sale or that it had ever charged an applicant a fee.




然而,近日,这个学院以及其奖项的合法性和权威性在中国引发了一场风暴般的争议,越来越多的大陆媒体和研究界人士质疑这究竟是学术荣誉还是商业交易。 一些调查表明,有可能通过付费加入该院士团。例如,国内媒体机构《红星新闻》咨询了一家提供申请服务的代理机构,被告知申请人通过支付18万元人民币(合2.49万美元)就可以确保入选。



“东方诺贝尔奖”是如何建立并发展成今天的样子的 据《南华早报》的调查,过去几个月已经有数十名中国人成为了EANS的院士,包括一些学术界中备受尊敬的人物,从中国顶尖大学的教授到政府研究机构的研究员和重要医院的临床医生。







根据苏道夫及其中国合作者Ellie Wang的说法,他被邀请在中国的一个活动上发表演讲,后来被意外要求与与活动组织者有关的人合影。

当《南华早报》询问他参与情况时,诺贝尔奖得主托马斯·C·苏道夫在北京欧洲自然科学院举行的仪式上被拍到,但他表示自己“完全不知道这些奖项是什么”。照片:手稿 当《南华早报》询问他参与情况时,诺贝尔奖得主托马斯·C·苏道夫在北京欧洲自然科学院举行的仪式上被拍到,但他表示自己“完全不知道这些奖项是什么”。照片:手稿 他表示自己在礼貌上祝贺了获奖者,尽管他“完全不知道这些奖项是什么”。


在中国的学术界,荣誉和名望通常伴随着其他特权,例如在申请科研资金时的优势。 一位不愿透露姓名的中国科学院科学家表示,研究人员不太可能不了解他们正在申请的荣誉的真实价值,但他们被潜在的好处所驱动。 这位科学家表示,他也在今年三月被一家机构邀请申请加入该院士团。






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