The China Association for Science and Technology recently published guidelines for improving the self-discipline of scientists and curbing academic fraud in scientific papers.
The association issued the guidelines to its affiliated organizations and schools last week. It included codes of conduct and bottom lines for scientific papers.
The bottom lines are no fabrication, no plagiarism, no impersonation and no bribery. The association also called for scientists to be conscious of national goals and to pursue innovation to advance the well-being of the people and the country, while upholding academic practices.
Since 2015, foreign science publications have frequently retracted research papers by Chinese authors.
"This has a serious negative social impact and has directly harmed Chinese scientists' international reputations," the association said in a statement.
"These retractions are the result of some Chinese scientists lacking discipline or morals," it said. "The guidelines are meant to promote the scientific spirit and strengthen moral standards."
The medical journal Tumor Biology, published by Springer Nature, retracted 107 Chinese papers in April after an investigation found the peer review process had been compromised with fabricated email addresses of reviewers.
The move affected more than 520 Chinese researchers. Some were from top schools such as Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Fudan University and China Medical University.
The Ministry of Science and Technology is currently investigating the scandal. Early results suggest that the authors had passed their articles to dubious third-party agencies for polishing or review, resulting in unethical practices.
In March 2015, BioMed Central, a major publisher of medical and science journals based in the United Kingdom, retracted 43 papers over fabricated peer reviews, 41 of which were written by Chinese scholars.
China has been the world's second-largest producer of academic papers since 2009, trailing only the United States, according to the Science Citation Index, a database that covers most of the world's leading science and technology journals.
China produced more than 300,000 works for international journals in 2016, compared with 13,000 in 1996.
Publishing papers in international journals has become an important benchmark for measuring a researcher's performance, which is linked to salary, funding and job promotions, according to Xinhua News Agency.
The Chinese scientific community is weighing reforms to make scientists' performance evaluations more robust and rational. At the same time, more regulations are seen as necessary to prevent and punish violators and unethical third-party agencies.