Are you a Chinese scientist? Do you frequently fail?

Well worry no more, because the Chinese government has introduced an exciting new amnesty program for scientists who fail.

mad scientist

I don’t know what used to happen to Chinese scientists who were unsuccessful. Perhaps they received a harshly worded letter and lost funding, perhaps they were beaten with rubber hoses; nobody but the government and the scientists really know.

What I do know is that scientists at major Chinese universities were sufficiently frightened of failure that there has been a rash of scientific fraud cases within the country recently. In 2007 alone more 13 scientists were caught faking data, plagiarising, and falsifying applications.

Some academics blame these fraud cases on the high expectations of the government, which creates enormous pressure to succeed in an area where experiments fail as often as they succeed.

Wan Gang, the Minister of Science and Technology, said: “If you press every project to succeed, it will inevitably lead to fabrication. In many cases, the experience from failures in scientific exploration is more precious than that from successes.”

The new law, called the law on Science and Technology Progress, will let scientists report failures without losing funding or respect.

Interestingly enough, China hopes that by tolerating failure the country will become more successful. They fear being left behind in the technology race, and hope to encourage innovation. Innovation frequently means failing in new endeavors, so they hope by allowing this scientists will be able to come up with new ideas and technology more freely.