In a micro-blog post on Tuesday, China's "Science Cop" Fang Zhouzi recently questioned the claim of former head of Google China Kai-Fu Lee that Lee served as the youngest-ever associate professor at Pittsburgh, PA-based Carnegie Mellon University.
With the real name of Fang Shimin, Fang Zhouzi is often referred to as the country's "Science Cop" for his role in unmasking fake credentials or other irregularities with the resumes or research of many high-profile Chinese academics and businessmen.
Fang's critique stemmed from a passage in Lee's new book, Making a World of Difference, where Lee wrote "[At 26], I was invited by my supervisor to teach in Carnegie Mellon University after graduation, becoming the youngest associate professor in the history of the university."
In the blog post, Fang pointed out that the title "associate professor" usually refers to someone in academia who has post-doctoral qualifications. Fang asked Lee to explain why he had referred to himself an “associate professor” at Carnegie Mellon prior to completing his dissertation at the school.
In total, Fang has published 24 tweets on this issue, raising the questions of "Was Lee an associate professor?", "Is it appropriate to translate 'assistant professor' into 'associate professor'?", “Was he the youngest associate professor in the university?", and "Is it possible for him to enter the tenure-track if he teaches for a few more years?"
The post has been widely discussed in the Chinese blogosphere. It was forwarded over 2,000 times and has received over 1,200 comments from netizens.
Lee returned fire immediately by publishing nine "tweets" on his own Sina micro-blog. He explained that the confusion had arisen due to difficulties in translating titles between the different Chinese and American academic systems.
"After I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1988, my supervisor persuaded me to teach in the university. Normally speaking, the title should be 'research associate,' but the university promised that I could enter the tenure-track directly, which meant I could be a lifetime employee of the university. So I became a research computer scientist first and then transferred to an assistant professor," Lee wrote in one of his tweets.
Lee said that he got his bachelor's degree when he was 21. He spent four to five years to complete his doctoral study, and took advantage of an exception to enter Carnegie Mellon's tenure-track. The then deputy headmaster told him that he had set a new record as the youngest tenured member.
After his reply, Lee said he had given enough explanation to the accusations, and he would not reply again, despite further questioning from Fang.