China increases scrutiny of academic research tracing the origin of the novel coronavirus

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on April 13, 2020

China has now increased scrutiny of academic papers based on research related to the original of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a directive by the central government and online notices published by two Chinese universities.

CNN who first reported the news said that the document describing the detailed checks on academic research was initially published on Friday morning on the website of the Fudan University in Shanghai and was later removed. The China University of Geoscience in Wuhan had also posted a similar notice about the restrictions on Covid-19 papers on its website. The notice has also been removed from the university’s page. However, a cached version of the same remains on the website as per the report.

According to the directive issued by China’s Ministry of Education's science and technology department, "Papers related to virus tracing should be managed strictly."

The directive details how papers related to research tracing the origin of the virus as well as other research on “ the new coronary pneumonia epidemic” will be vetted strictly by the department before publishing.

The papers will first be reviewed by academic committees at universities. Researchers are then required to send a PDF version of the same to the Education Ministry's science and technology department. The department will forward the papers to a task force under the State Council for vetting.

Only the papers approved by the task force can then be sent for publishing.

The task force will also provide its opinion on the "academic value" of the study, the "timing for publishing" as well as whether the study should be published in journals based in China or abroad.

According to the CNN report, a medical expert based in Hong Kong who collaborated with researchers in mainland China in February had said that they had not faced such restrictions for their clinical analysis back then.

Since late January, Chinese researchers have published a range of academic papers based on Covid-19 in a lot of renowned international medical journals. However, some of these findings including the origin of the virus have sparked debate and criticism against the country on social media, the report said.

Wuhan in China was ground zero for the global coronavirus pandemic. According to experts, the virus is likely to have originated in bats and transmitted to a human.

The first victim of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be a 57-year-old shrimp seller in the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, the Wall Street Journal had reported.

China on Sunday reported the highest number of new daily coronavirus cases in nearly six weeks. The surge in the number of cases due to infected travellers arriving from overseas post the country lifted its restrictions underscoring challenges Beijing will face in preventing a second wave of Covid-19.

The country reported a total of 108 new coronavirus cases on Sunday.

Published on April 13, 2020

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