Fang Shi-min, a Perfect Insult to Sir John Royden Maddox
Junlin Liao, Ph.D.
I was shocked to learn that the very first John Maddox Prize went to Shi-min Fang, a highly controversial science writer in China. There is no more perfect insult to Sir John Maddox than attaching his name to this man.
To Sir John Maddox’s honor, the John Maddox Prize winners have to demonstrate at least either scientific acumen or scientific integrity, and preferably both. There were many strong candidates, as we were told, with impressive achievements in those regards. Unfortunately, the judges failed to do their due diligence. They chose the least deserving individual.
I was once very close to Shi-min Fang. In fact he had asked me to serve as a board member of his US based science foundation—just like everything else in smoke and mirrors, his foundation was a foundation in Chinese language and not in English. Fortunately before I was too involved in his foundation, I was forced to examine his character and work. Then I became an open critic of the so called “number one fraud buster of China”.
Shi-min Fang does have a group of followers who support him unconditionally, often with lies, verbal and physical threats to anyone who dares to challenge Fang. Those supporters are mostly active on the Internet where they can hide their true identity or assume fake identities. Without worrying of real life constraint on their behaviors, this group of supporters tends to be very abusive verbally and often turns any meaningful discussion into emotional outrages, discouraging any critics of Fang to engage him. Fang himself often demonstrates some level of restraint while his critics fall pray of abusive language of his supporters. We have long suspected that many of the false identities were assumed by Fang himself. There are many occasions that Fang himself failed to vent his abuse and threats through the preferred channel, revealing to public for who he really is.
Before you dismiss me and my critique arbitrarily, I need to point out that Fang has employed a strategy very successfully over the years to discredit his critics. His supporters and he would always claim that his critics are but frauds that he had exposed in the past seeking revenge. Therefore, his critics always make up lies to disparage him. After this argument, he urges you not to read his critics. Once you follow his advice, he is secured in the virtual reality he had created for you: he is the undisputed science cop and fraud buster in China and he has suffered to a great extent personally because of such successes. He intentionally and meticulously maintains this virtual reality by publishing propaganda materials on his websites and elsewhere almost daily. Let me remind you, his wife was a propagandist who probably initiated his personal campaign to greatness (She wrote one of the earliest article to claim a greater than life and perfect image for Fang and she works for the state news agency and at times served as a propagandist).
Indeed there are individuals who criticize Fang and his group out of revenge for being exposed by Fang. To set the records right, I am not one and many are not. In fact, most of his critics are not. Instead Fang mostly has responded to criticisms with so called fraud-busting activity for retaliation purposes. He busts those who pose challenges to him in a certain way, sometimes unknowingly, while leaving friends alone. Again, with Fang and his group’s many years on my trail, they did not expose or bust me on anything. On the contrary, I had exposed Fang’s laughable science, plagiarism, fraud on many occasions and I am the first one who exposed his wife’s rampant plagiarism in her master thesis. Another great critic of Fang was Dr. Xin Ge. Similarly, Fang and his group cannot claim even a single misconduct of Ge except the fabricated and misunderstood ones. But Fang will always ask you to stay away from us because we can tell you the truth of his character, fraud, and shoddy science.
To my amusement, I entertained the idea that Fang and his gangs had probably blackmailed Nature into awarding him the award. Here is how. In 1983, Sir John Maddox had published an editorial “No Need for Panic about AIDS”, in which Sir Maddox denied the existence of AIDS. No real scientist would have issue with that. But it would be a fatal flaw and weakness that Fang could exploit. About one year ago, Fang started to expose Michigan State University (MSU) professor Robert Root-Bernstein for being a pseudo-scientist because he once denied that HIV contributed to AIDS. You can easily guess why it happened this way. Dr. Root-Bernstein had published an open letter against Fang alleging that Fang had plagiarized his works while Fang was a MSU student. With threat of Sir John Maddox’s name tarnished in China, the judges had no choice but to award Fang the prize.
Did the judges have unbiased information about Fang? Apparently not. How can you even think about connecting Fang to Sir Maddox? Even if you know one tenth about Fang, you would think otherwise. To stand up for science, you have to have good science and you have to have integrity. Let’s examine a few examples.
Even if you are not related to science, will you lie about your home address, especially in court? Why do so many critics of Fang seem to be addicted to busting Fang? Entertainment. Fang’s manipulative actions are sometimes hilarious. In Oct 2001, Dr. Chuanguo Xiao wrote to Science magazine, alleging that a recent article by Fang contained mostly plagiarism against a Science paper. Science openly condemned Fang’s writing as unacceptable journalism. The Xiao and Fang feud would gradually dominate Fang’s fraud-busting career, with Fang’s regular attack of Xiao in Chinese media. Xiao retaliated with legal actions and won one case. Instead of accepting the legal challenges, Fang tried hard to delay and avoid legal proceedings. Court documents delivered by mail to him were returned unopened to defy legal processes in China and U.S. This is why Fang faked non-existent addresses in court document. In 2007, the critics of Fang noticed that he had given a Chinese court non-existent U.S. address as part of the requirement to qualify for a privileged legal status in China. The address was given as 9590 Gold Coast San Diego, 92126. Fang’s critics thereafter laughed at the idea that he may actually live on a tree in U.S.!
In the same year, Fang would shock his critics with a bold lie. Dr. Xiao’s legal action against Fang met a hard rock, court documents could not be delivered, impeding legal procedures. Dr. Xiao hired private investigators in China to find out where he lived and delivered the court order. As evidence, two persons delivered the documents with one holding camera. It looked like a threatening moment. Fang probably thought it was a threat from someone he had been attacking at the moment before he opened the envelop. But he subsequently reported it in media (not to police) of being threatened by those that he had busted. He was widely sympathized and the media increasingly gave him credit for his fraud-busting activities, neglecting the video evidence presented by Dr. Xiao and the fact.
The judges of the first John Maddox prize are blinded by Fang and his gangs. As stated by Nature editorial, Shi-min Fang “has done much of what the scientific community aims, but often fails, to do – root out fakers”. How can you make such a statement? Fang has contributed probably marginally to “root out fakers”, in certain cases, he did contribute to the fall of fakers, but in most cases, he was credited simply because he was the loudest and has more privileges accessing Chinese media. But there is an inherent problem: he is sleeping with one of the greatest fakers that the Chinese scientific community is incapable of removing. Fang’s wife wrote a master thesis with all contents plagiarized, including most of her references, i.e., copying others’ work verbatim with notes and references. Fang’s initial response? He did not marry her when she submitted her thesis—apparently he was only engaged to her then and married her the next year.
The John Maddox Prize Winner’s next move? He claimed, he was blood thirst of those who exposed his wife – he will kill those pigs, so he claimed in his microblog. Unfortunately I was one of them. Fang had established many standards in writing over his fraud-busting career, even a glimpse of the titles of his articles can reveal how stringent his standards are: “even a few words are plagiarism”. However, such a standard only applies to those he attacks. His wife? Not a chance. After we ridiculed how cowardly he tried to clear his name at the sacrifice of his wife’s, he moved to defend his wife by relaxing all the rules he had applied to others. If the institution that awarded his wife the master degree should strip her degree, he so wrote, he would dedicate his whole life to exposing plagiarism of the institution. Nature can probably envision that, despite rapid economic development in China, Chinese scientific community is still vulnerable. Fang and his wife have had their way. Despite repeated media demand of justice, Fang’s wife is still proudly a master, as she had once wrote, graduated with honor (her thesis classified as cum laude).
Fang’s character has been fully revealed by his actions against Dr. Root-Bernstein. When Dr. Root-Bernstein refused to be duped to think he had the right to plagiarize in the name of science or science popularization, Fang attacked him and his works. How did Fang write science essays? He copied from English authors, invariably landed in controversies of plagiarism scandals himself. We had also caught him on several occasions that he copied Chinese materials with minimal editing efforts. He also published same articles with minor changes on different media where readers expect the articles to be original. The most ridiculous of all, he had once plagiarized against an American author on the topic of plagiarism. There are mountains of evidence of Fang’s plagiarizing style of science writing and we can deliver at any time but I refrain from doing so here in this brief letter.
If you care to know more about Fang, you will naturally despise him, his science and the way he “stood for” science. Fang was instrumental in organizing and creating New Threads, an Internet site currently owned by him. But historically, he had partners that disagreed with him. He was able to eliminate them by registering the organization under his name, of course without proper prior notification of his partners. It is our opinion that he had cheated them out of their partnerships. Because of this move, Fang started autocratic rule of this organization. How does he run this website? It is a convenient tool for his personal attack of his critics. Fang’s supporters are always hidden under pseudonyms, you would expect him to respect the same privilege of others, right? No, once his enemy, he wants all your private information exposed online so that someone know you in life may contribute to him of dirt secrets about you. Dr. Xin Ge became Fang’s public enemy and Fang declared to purge any and all of his postings on his website. However, Dr. Ge once wrote an article criticizing some other critics of Fang. Fang posted Dr. Ge’s article without his permission on his website. The next thing definitely demonstrate Fang’s character: In Dr. Ge’s article, he inserted a sentence to reveal the true identity of the critics Dr. Ge was criticizing! Would Sir John Maddox do that?
Fang stood up for science in a funny way. His stealing of Dr. Ge’s article is not an isolated case. In another case he would steal someone’s article to post on his website and be demanded to take it down. It was like pulling teeth! The author had to publicly protest for several times and Fang grudgingly granted him his wishes. Then Fang attacked him and his article, calling the article garbage. That was when we call Fang a burglar who’s interested in stealing garbage. What a John Maddox winner! Did Sir John Maddox ever covet the garbage of his neighbors?
Who nominated Shi-min Fang? Oh, yes, the “honorable” Albert Yue Yuan, a person who has no more integrity than Fang. Yuan’s employer in several occasions called him Dr. Yuan, which lead to my investigation of his true academic credentials. He owns no doctoral degree. At various media outlets he touted Fang as the one and ONLY science writer merit public attention. If not reading this man, read English, he suggested. Such an extreme position does not leave room for himself because he is also a science reporter. I ended up checking his writing and found out how shoddy he writes science: errors frequent and without proper understanding of the English materials he based his articles on. Of course, Mr. Yuan has been rewarded with tons of eulogy of his science writing by Fang as well and not being busted for his fraud by Fang.
It is rather unfortunate for Mr. Yuan and Dr. Fang that their scientific writing careers are largely based on biology and medicine. I had a degree in medicine and practiced medicine for a short while. I was further trained in scientific methods for my Ph.D. My background has enabled me to expose both of them on numerous occasions of their shoddy science. I had examined one book of Mr. Yuan’s and for the first six articles, I had never failed to identify dozens’ of factual errors and misunderstandings. To Mr. Yuan’s credit, he does not demonstrate a tendency to plagiarize. If anyone is interested in my criticism of Yuan, please feel free to contact me and I will not let you be disappointed.
Fang’s science is much funnier than Mr. Yuan’s to criticize. Mr. Yuan does not have a Ph.D. that we can firmly point to as evidence for scientific concepts that he should know. Fang’s scientific writing career is currently in a precarious situation because of our continued ridicule and criticism. His column at a major newspaper was forced to close and his last stronghold at the Xinhua News Daily has been hanging on his wife’s connection with the organization. The editors of this paper had privately revealed that they were under much pressure because of Fang’s column – How could it not be? Since Fang’s losing of his column at the major newspaper, his column at Xinhua News Daily has been ridiculed almost constantly with almost every article being exposed for Fang’s lack of understanding of the underlying topic and science errors all over the place. Again, there is tremendous amount of evidence should anyone be interested.
Shoddy science is intrinsically linked to plagiarism. In many instances I criticized Fang’s need to plagiarize because of lack of knowledge and understanding of the underlying topic. When Fang ventured to put down his own words, he was likely to commit science errors. Of course, he has often been ridiculed for seeking out the incorrect statements among the correct ones as well. This is certainly not Sir John Maddox type.
In writing science, we all are likely to leave something out or commit here and there an error. The problem with Fang is that there are too many errors, most of the time rendering the whole articles unreadable. To stand up for science, you got to have science, not to tell readers that the scimitar-horned oryx, which is driven almost to extinction by expansion of desert, is by far the most thirsty-resisting animal and superior to “the ship of the desert” camel; or that the willow bark can bring down the high fever within a day and salicylic acid is almost strong acid; or that people go on “hunger strike” to lose weight and the only solution to midlife spread is exercise. Besides diligent research and reading of academic source articles, you also have to have integrity to write good science. Even if GMO is a good cause, will you lie to the Chinese public that U.S. citizens consume GMO corn directly as sweet corn? Why does Fang lose credibility in China? He repeated such a lie even after the critics pointed out that sweet corn was a vegetable, not the mostly GMO cereal corn.
Yes, Fang fights alternative medicine. Such a position is shared by many including myself. But does that worth the award? Absolutely not. Fang used to have a book-selling business with partners. Among those that he had ardently promoted were traditional Chinese medicine classics and books. When he was making a profit, by the way, through the nonprofit website of his New Threads, he offered little sympathy to those who objected to the unscientific tradition. The business went sour and he was questioned the appropriateness of such ads, he had gradually turned to current position. I am not saying that Fang’s busting of traditional Chinese medicine is without merit, but his track record of contribution to science is at best neutral, if he has done enough to undo his earlier profitable contribution.
Nature humiliated Sir John Maddox by associating his name with the number one fraud of China – I have yet to find someone Fang’s equal in impenitence of wrongs. Fang runs a busting business where he builds fame through ruthless attack of those with public acknowledgement and recognition. The payout is instant transfer of attention to him and his fraud-busting. One of his victims is Dr. Beilin Wu. Wu published a book in 2000 that Fang used as a target. His attack on Wu revealed his lack of science, for instance, with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, he would then confuse centromere with centriole. His criticism of Wu indicates that he was the one without basic understanding of Wu’s topic. Chinese media sought experts’ opinions regarding the matter. Professor Zaipin Li was one of the experts who sided with Dr. Wu. Even Dr. Wu’s book made some claims about DNA supplements, Fang did not launch his attack on DNA supplements. It was when Professor Li was quoted to back the claims of DNA supplements that Fang launched his attack of DNA supplements and of course, of Professor Li as well. Upon hearing his name being associated with DNA supplements and Fang’s attack, Professor Li promptly sent out a disclaimer denying the authenticity of the quote. Fang continued his attack of Professor Li with the false quote! Fang later published Li’s disclaimer on his website and promised to edit his original attacking articles, a promise he did not keep at all. Two months later, Fang continued with another attack of Professor Li associating him with DNA supplements. Of course, then the fight against DNA supplements emerged as worth course by itself. Fang had never apologized openly to Professor Li for his wrongful attack, or for the empty promise.
Professor Li is not an isolated case of Fang’s harassment. If you provide support for anyone that Fang is criticizing, you are likely the next target. Even if you are a bystander with a pseudonym, Dr. Fang will hunt you down and reveal your true identity. As scientific as Sir John Maddox, if you cannot guarantee 100% correctness in science, Dr. Fang has a hat customized for you, “ pseudo-scientist”. Actually, Fang awards people this hat even if they are 100% right and Fang gets the science wrong.
I openly challenge Nature and the John Maddox Prize Judges to get the fact right about Fang. Awarding Fang the very first John Maddox Prize is a perfect insult to Sir John Maddox: Maddox was upright, where Fang is manipulative; Maddox held deer fair dealings, where Fang never wants to give his critics a chance to speak; Maddox was a reputable scientist and Fang did little science and his writings are full of plagiarism and shoddy science; in his whole life, Sir Maddox has been respected for his integrity but Fang is a big fraud and liar who has effectively used fraud-busting as a weapon against his personal enemies, including many who had busted his fraud.
With this letter, I solemnly and openly protest the first John Maddox Prize.