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Think tank eyes bigger advisory role to meet China’s pressing needs

Cheng Yingqi
Updated: Jun 12,2015 7:49 AM     China Daily

Experts from Chinese Academy of Sciences seek to further guide major public policy.

An organization with six decades of history and a diverse brain trust of experts charged with developing solutions to public policy challenges is reforming itself in an effort to meet China’s most pressing needs.

The Academic Divisions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have served as an advanced national think tank for the Chinese government on major science and technology issues. Now they are working to better integrate their resources and intelligence, build their brand and further influence public policy.

“Through six decades, the Academic Divisions have made considerable contributions to China’s science and technology development by providing counseling to the decision-makers,” said Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “In the future, we will further develop the Academic Divisions to promote their role in scientific research and education.”

The elite 724 CAS members, who have received the highest academic accolades in the fields of science and technology and a lifelong title conferred by the State, have laid the foundation for the development of modern science and technology in China.

They have been instrumental in the development of large government-funded projects such as satellites and the atomic bomb, the building of the country’s science and technology award system, the establishment of the National Natural Science Foundation of China-a foundation that granted some 20 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) to nearly 60,000 projects last year-and the development of the National High-Tech R&D Program of China, under which more than 120,000 academic papers and 8,000 patents have been produced.

However, unlike researchers working for major strategic consulting firms like the Rand Corporation, CAS members are not full-time employees of the CAS Academic Divisions. After being selected as CAS members, the scientists continue to carry out scientific research at their institutes or universities, while making proposals to government decision-makers.

“People usually ask me how to let the Academic Divisions play a bigger role in producing innovative scientific results and improve education quality. It is indeed a difficult issue because the more than 700 CAS members are actually scattered in different research institutes that are independent of the Academic Divisions, or even of the Chinese Academy of Sciences,” Bai said.

“We are also planning to establish a strategic advisory academy to integrate the intelligence resources specialized in key subjects including environment and information technology,” he said.