Yang Wei wants to reform attitudes towards research ethics at Zhejiang University and across the country.

Yang Wei has an easy smile and a carefree, even distracted, air — but he takes such a solemn approach to life that his wife sometimes tells him to relax. “I take everything seriously,” he says.

The former materials scientist certainly took it seriously when, two years after he became president of Zhejiang University (ZJU) in Hangzhou, China, he faced a case of scientific misconduct that became a turning point for his presidency. In early October 2008, the editor of the International Journal of Cardiology discovered that figures in a manuscript by He Haibo, a scientist researching traditional Chinese medicine who had been hired by the ZJU only months before, were suspiciously similar to those in an article that He had published elsewhere. Confronted, He quickly owned up, submitting a 12-page confession to Yang on 26 October.