China tightens grip over coronavirus research

China tightens grip over coronavirus research
Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects scientific research on the coronavirus during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing on March 2. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: China has appeared to impose strict restrictions on the publication of academic research on the origins of the novel coronavirus. Online notices published by two Chinese universities and a central government directive have shown the measures, but those have since been removed from the web.

All academic papers on Covid-19 will be subject to extra vetting before being submitted for publication under the new policy.

According to the now-deleted posts, studies on the origin of the virus will receive extra scrutiny and must be approved by central government officials.

The increased scrutiny appears to be the latest effort by the Chinese government to control the narrative on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first broke out in Chinese city of Wuhan in late last years and since then the virus has claimed more than 100,000 lives and sickened 1.7 million people worldwide.

Chinese researchers have published a series of Covid-19 studies in influential international medical journals since late January.

Some early coronavirus case findings, such as when human-to-human transition first appeared – have raised questions over the official government account of the outbreak and sparked controversy on Chinese social media.

And now the Chinese government trying to tightening their grip on the publication of Covid-19 research, which further sparks the speculations.

On condition to anonymity because of fear of retaliation, a Chinese researcher said the move was a worrying development that would likely obstruct important scientific research.

He said: “I think it is a coordinated effort from (the) Chinese government to control (the) narrative, and paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China.”

“And I don’t think they will really tolerate any objective study to investigate the origination of this disease,” he added.

Increased Chinese scrutiny

Ministry of Education’s science and technology department issued the directive which says, “academic papers about tracing the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed.”

The directive lays out layers of approval for these papers, starting with the academic committees at universities. The paper then required to be sent to the Education Ministry’s science and technology department, which then forwards the papers to a task force under the State Council for vetting.

Only then the universities will know from the task force whether the research can be submitted to journals.

Other papers on Covid-19 will be vetted by universities’ academic committees, based on conditions such as whether the “timing for publishing” is right and the “academic value” of the study.

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