Sunday, April 28, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Mysterious Academic Degress

The Original Story:
This one is mysterious because it is not in the book Bend, Not Break, nor has Fu Ping spoken about it herself, publicly anyway. But at least two sources have described Fu Ping has a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature.

One is the book How the Web was Born by James Gillies and Robert Cailiau, Oxford University Press, 2000. On Page 237, while describing the birth of the Mosaic browser, it says:
Ping Fu had an eclectic mixture of talents: a Ph.D. in Chinese literature and a flair for scientific visualization projects on computers.
Fu Ping was interviewed for the book, but it is not clear whether she was the source of the above.

Another is the Executive Profile provided by Businessweek, which states:
Ms. Fu holds MS and BS degrees in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has PhD in Chinese literature from Nanjing University, China, and an MA in Chinese literature from Suzhou University, China.
Businessweek cited no sources.

(Update 7/11/2013: Businessweek web site has now been updated with both of her PhD and MA degrees above removed.)

The Debunking:
Perhaps due to the necessity of presenting a case for deportation, the book Bend, Not Break has been very vague on the timeline before Fu Ping's departure from China. So much so that Forbes' Jenna Goudreau discovered it as a "gap" in her timeline. In her own clarification, Fu Ping did mention her plan for attending graduate school in Nanjing:
I originally had been planning to go to graduate school to study comparative literature in Nanjing, but that could not happen due to the circumstances. 
So, she did not attend the graduate school and, even if she did (as reported in a 2009 story in Chinese media), she would not have had enough time to earn a Ph.D.

Businessweek's profile contains multiple errors as Fu Ping did not have MA from Suzhou University either, or BS from Illinois.

Where did James Gillies, Robert Cailiau, and Businessweek get this erroneous information?

Fu Ping's Explanation:
In late June and early July of 2013, Fu Ping attributed the problem with her academic credentials to "automatic internet search." She told South China Morning Post:
In the book I wrote exactly what the fact is: I don’t have a degree from Suzhou [Soochow University], there is no contradiction. I have a MS and BA in the USA. On my social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I only list my two US degrees, which are both in Computer Science. My understanding is that when other publications post my profile on their websites, they may run an automatic Internet search, which presents degrees from other people with the same name as mine, Ping Fu, and these peoples’ degrees get attached to my name. I found many instances of this, even on very reputable sites such as those of Bloomberg Businessweek, the Wall Street Journal, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 
and Qiaobao:
But there are places that I have no control of. About 10 years ago, our company's marketing department has a girl from Malaysia. I told her that I did not graduate from Suzhou University. So she wrote on our page "post graduate degree." Because she thought "post graduate degree" could also mean "non degree" besides "masters graduate student." We made corrections right away and it was not on our company web site. But recently when our company changed web site, an program that was automatically fetching files made it visible again. I did not discover it in time.  
Right now there are many web sites, including Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, etc., all carried this incorrect information. I found out later that it was because their automated search feature. The real culprit of this academic credentials fraud is the automated search, not me. 


  1. Ping Fu also has a PhD in computer science. In NCWIT interview (, Lucy Sanders complimented Fu for her "PhD in computer science" which Fu seems happily accepted because she did not even try to correct it if it was not true.

  2. After John Brant interviewed Ping Fu for three days, he wrote in the 2005 Inc. article that "she moved to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, or NCSA, and while there completed her doctorate." So it was highly likely that John Brant got this information from Ping Fu herself.

    This misinformation was later cited by Dr. Hisrich in his book, International entrepreneurship: Staring, developing, and managing a global venture, but Dr. Hisrich replied recently in response to a truth seeker's inquiry that the profile was no longer included in the 2013 edition of his book.

  3. She's really good at letting reporters to believe the false information.

  4. She did not finish undergraduate studies in Suzhou, how could she start graduate ones? This liar is simply addicted to lies.