In 2013 I stepped on Zili Li’s toes by redoing the works of his PhD thesis. We got interested in conformal contact and wanted to make this development ourselves. This seemingly innocent step became the start of an intensive debate.
We presented our work in Qingdao, China, at the 23rd International IAVSD conference. After the presentation, Zili stepped up and accused me of plagiarism. Say that again? We had attributed properly to the prior developments. And we also made substantial improvements, as shown for instance in this post.
This unjust counter-attack provides a nice tactic to devert the attention. Instead of conformal contact, it is suddenly a matter of scientific integrity. And instead of being criticized, the roles are reversed. From being the underdog, Li had suddenly taken the upper hand.
The counter-attack takes its value from the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle. Much more effort is needed to refute bullshit than by which it is uttered. It’s like shooting blanks; you can say whatever you want and take back the criticized parts. Even if you retract your statements immediately, the harm has been done.
The success of this tactic is founded further on the works that we described earlier. By looking good as a scientist, your statements are much more believed. Anyhow, there are very few people that really looked into the PhD thesis. It’s supposed to be great, so at first sight, the allegations make sense?
But why did so few people study the PhD thesis? Is it really a hidden gem that just has to be uncovered? Or is there something fishy about it?
By claiming to have done the same work before, Zili is making himself look better again. Also, he’s making unrightful claims on our works, by claiming rights on the improvements that we made. That’s the real irony of this matter, getting hit by your own arguments?
It would be better for all if we could just go on with good science. So we had some discussions in 2013 and I went on with my actual work. However, Li didn’t stop and produced a second attack. That’s where we couldn’t ignore any longer and picked up the gauntlet. That’s how we got dragged into this fight.