The former president of China Agricultural University (CAU), who specializes in soil improvement and biomass energy, has been accused of plagiarizing other scientists' academic work some 10 years ago.
Six people, including former professors with the CAU, made the allegations against Shi Yuanchun in a signed open letter.
Calls to Shi went unanswered Wednesday.
Shi Yuanchun, born in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1931, graduated from CAU and is an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering and Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.
The open letter said that Shi plagiarized other people's scientific results on improving the saline-alkali soil on the North China Plain while he was the university's president.
Those six people, who are now all over 80 years old, include Li Jilun, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and CAU soil experts Tao Yishou, Lin Pei and Zu Kangqi.
The open letter said that Shi plagiarized other scientists' results to persuade the Shenzhen government to invest tens of millions of yuan in establishing an agricultural technology company. However, the company eventually went bankrupt but resulted in Shi making a great deal of profit, the letter claimed.
Zu Kangqi said in the open letter that when Shi headed a research project, he spent 1.05 million yuan ($162,300) on a soil analytical device imported from Hungary, which Shi boasted had great value but was not used since it was bought in 1982.
Fang Zhouzi, a scientist known as China's "science cop" for his campaigns to expose academic fraud, mentioned the case on his microblog.
"It is not strange that Shi faked things when he was head of the CAU. Fraud cases were common in the 1990s," Fang said to the Global Times.
CAU assistant researcher Tian Xiangrong, one of the letter's signatories, told the Global Times Wednesday that he once took part in a project on anti-parasite drugs with Shi, and that during the project Shi had stolen Li Jilun's scientific results and sold counterfeit drugs.
"In 1998, many people wanted to expose the case, but some quit in the end," said Tian.
Professor Xiong Bingqi of Shanghai Jiaotong University said to the Global Times Wednesday that though some incidents mentioned in the letter happened more than 20 years ago, the process of uncovering fraudulent behavior might continue for a long time.
"A thorough investigation should be carried out and then the appropriate academic, administrative and even judicial punishment should be given," Xiong said.
Wang Qiong contributed to the story