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Experts seek research funding shake-up

GAO YUAN
Updated: Mar 5,2015 11:30 AM     China Daily

The national scientific research funding program urgently needs reform to boost the country’s capacity for innovation, political advisers working in the science and technology field said on March 4.

Yin Zhuo, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said spending on basic scientific research lags far behind that in Western countries.

“Less than 10 percent of the massive research budget went to support basic scientific projects. In developed nations, the proportion is 20 to 25 percent,” he said, adding that low investment in the area will damage the country’s scientific competitiveness in the long run.

Total research and development spending broke through the 1.3 trillion yuan ($210 billion) mark in 2014, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Enterprises contributed more than 76 percent of the sum.

Yin, director of the Expert Consultation Committee of the People’s Liberation Army navy, said reforms are necessary to encourage research.

“Scientists should receive sufficient funding at the start of projects so they can fully immerse themselves in their studies without worrying about money,” Yin said.

The country allocates research budgets annually based on researchers’ work in the previous year. But many projects last longer than a year, which means scientists often have to find new sources of funding halfway through their research.

Sun Chaohun, a CPPCC member who leads a State-level mineral research lab in Sichuan province, said the scientific research funding system is in desperate need of reform because the way it is structured causes many scientists to neglect their studies.

“Some researchers are too engaged in making connections with the fund approval authority and spend half their working time on producing a better-looking financial report in order to obtain more investment the following year,” Sun said.

“This is an absolutely absurd move for a scientist.”

Wan Gang, minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, pledged to push forward a series of reforms this year to encourage innovation.

“Local scientific innovation will greatly fuel China’s economic development in the coming years,” Wan said. “As the country is set to witness slower GDP growth in the foreseeable future, innovation will play an increasingly important role in boosting the economy.”

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