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Evaluations aim to help innovation

Updated: Jul 6,2018 9:42 AM     China Daily

To promote innovation, China has launched its most detailed performance evaluation systems so far for talented researchers, institutes and projects, officials said on July 5. The system will be more streamlined and efficient, they said.

The systems are part of recent reforms to cut bureaucracy in the auditing, evaluation and managerial process of scientific research and projects, according to new guidelines, which were issued recently by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.

“The new evaluation systems are the most comprehensive and detailed mechanisms to date,” said He Defang, director of the department of policy, regulation and supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

“These types of institutional reforms are typically proposed by departments, but this time it is straight from the top, which proves that State leaders are paying more attention to science-related government affairs.”

Earlier evaluation reforms began nearly two decades ago, but they lacked clear, enforceable guidelines, which led to issues ranging from cumbersome paperwork to conflicts of interest, He said. The situation began to improve in 2013 as more government departments began experimenting with policies to reduce bureaucratic workload.

At the same time, most science evaluations tend to focus on individual projects, but China lacked both general and mid- to long-range evaluations about the role of research institutions and the social benefits of their output, he said.

Zhang Xu, deputy director of the ministry’s department of innovation and development, said the new evaluation systems aim to optimize management, unleash the potential of scientists, clarify roles and research directions for research institutes and increase their capability to better serve national needs.

The new systems will also integrate different types of evaluations across various levels, including self-evaluations and institutional, departmental and third-party evaluations, leading to more balanced and objective results, Zhang said.

Each research institute will create a charter that acts as a set of basic governing principles and the basis for evaluations, Zhang said. The main items of the charter include research targets, responsible fields and national duty.

The results of an evaluation will have more weight in policy formation, project planning, talent recruitment and other major decisions related to the functions of the institute, Zhang said, adding that the legal entity for the institutes will be granted more power to make such decisions.

More practical criteria-such as socioeconomic benefits-will be added into a scientists’ evaluations’ for promotions, He said.

Legacy criteria, such as awards and the number of published papers, will serve only as references and not deciding factors, as in past evaluations.

“After all, it is unfair to hold back a capable surgeon’s promotion because he spent all his time doing surgery and not writing papers,” He said.

As for institutes, success will be measured by their end products and social impact, not just department size or budget, He said. Users of the technology will have greater say in the evaluation.

Xie Xin, deputy director of the ministry’s department of resource allocation and management, said the reform will also strengthen the credibility of evaluations and the reviewers, with a zero-tolerance stance on fraud.