Universities in China should have primary responsibility for academic plagiarism, the Ministry of Education said in a circular Thursday.
Universities should investigate and deal with plagiarism in accordance with the law, with the help of its academic committee, the circular said.
This circular was the first document to deal with academic plagiarism, said Xu Mei, spokeswoman with the ministry.
Cases of academic plagiarism have been frequent in recent years. On March 15, the elite Zhejiang University fired an associate professor who allegedly copied a former doctoral supervisor's research results in eight of his theses and sent one paper to different journals for publication.
According to the circular, the punishment for plagiarists could involve warnings, dismissal or even legal charges.
Plagiarists' research programs could also be suspended or terminated, they could lose their funding, or see awards and honors revoked.
Plagiarists will also be ineligible for financial support and academic awards for "a certain period," said the notice.
Universities should handle plagiarism cases in a fair and open way and publish the results to the public.
The notice also ordered universities to set up workshops for teachers and students to improve their awareness of academic discipline.
"These measures are intended to build up a long-term prevention mechanism to keep the academic field 'clean'," said Xu.
(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2009)