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Government shifts science role

Luo Wangshu
Updated: Mar 12,2015 6:59 AM     China Daily

The government will no longer authorize or fund science and technology projects directly, but focus instead on making development plans, assessing projects and monitoring evaluation and research funds, the science and technology minister said on March 11.

“The key to managing science and technology research is to take good care of the relationship between government and the market,” said Wan Gang, who also is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. “The ministry has already canceled and transferred some power to authorize and launch projects, activating the market’s energy,” Wan added, saying that this will reduce administrative interference with research and encourage innovation.

The government’s job is to provide better service and administration to inspire science innovation, Wan said.

For decades, the Ministry of Science and Technology had great power to approve projects and allocate research funds, thus determining the direction of research. Academia and society have widely criticized the government, saying it had too big a hand in influencing China’s research.

“Many professors are busy socializing with officials (to get projects) and spend less time in the lab for research,” said Shi Yigong, a National People’s Congress deputy and dean of the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University.

To change the situation, Shi said, the science and technology evaluation system must be changed.

Qian Feng, a CPPCC member and deputy president of East China University of Science and Technology in Hubei province, said: “The majority of research funds come from the Ministry of Finance under the current system. Is it possible to hand over the power to local government? Some places have already tried transferring intellectual property and research innovation decisions to universities.”

Qian said this would reduce administrative interference and accelerate the transfer of university research achievements to the marketplace.

The ministry has already begun changing its role from that of sponsor to supervisor.

In December, the State Council issued a reform on the administration of State scientific research funds.

According to the reform, the government will hand over the power of fund allocation to third-party professional institutes.

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