It has been 20 months since the tragedy that a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Florida committed suicide accusing his advisor coerce him into academic misconduct. By exposing the evidence of those academic misconduct, our latest article dropped a bump into the academic world. The Nature Index followed up with an in-depth report with comments from scientists and academic organizations all over the world expressing their shock and deep concerns about this scandal that happened at the University of Florida.
At Early February of 2021, the ACM and IEEE Joint Investigative Committee finally finished the investigation of the ISCA-2019 tragedy and drew the conclusion:
The conclusion finally confirmed two important accusations listed in Huixiang Chen’s suicide note that:
- The review process for his ISCA-2019 paper was broken and most of the reviewers of the paper are “friends” of his advisor Dr. Tao Li. The review process became organized and colluded academic fraud:
- After recognizing that there are severe problems in his ISCA-2019 paper, Huixiang Chen was coerced by his advisor Dr. Tao Li to proceed with a submission despite that Huixiang Chen repeatedly expressed concerns about the correctness of the results reported in the work, which led to a strong conscience condemnation and caused the suicide.
Finally, the paper with academic misconduct got retracted by ACM as Huixiang’s last wish. The ACM imposed a penalty of a 15-year ban on participation in any ACM Conference or Publication on the offenders. As alleged by the President of ACM, certain of these penalties are the most severe that ACM has ever imposed. The President of ACM also wrote a letter to Huixiang’s family to let them know the investigation result and their decision.
The saddest conclusion of the investigation is this one:
“There was clear and convincing evidence of breaches of reviewer confidentiality for HPCA’19, and ASPLOS’17 discovered incidentally to this investigation.”
This is not their first commitment to academic misconduct. This organized academic fraud has started at least since 2017. The same process that Huixiang suffered, which could include review process fraud, abusing and bullying Ph.D. students, and coercion of academic misconduct, has been lasting for at least 2 years. Until Huixiang’s standing out, all the other students surrendered. The University of Florida and the Department of Electrical Computer Engineering just acquiesced and let this happen over and over again leaving the students with two choices: either surrendered with a broken conscience or gave up his life for his pursing of academic integrity, as Huixiang said in his final words:
“I hope this will make a change in this world. I hope you can keep simple and stay honest in this society. I will bless you in another world.”
It has been over 10 days since this announcement, Huixiang’s family still hear nothing from the University of Florida — not a single word of explanation of this scandal that led to the suicide of their child.
We were shocked and confused by the responses of the University of Florida and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering after the suicide tragedy: