Premier Li Keqiang’s recent speech at the national science and technology innovation conference received long and warm applause from researchers.
His words were put into action just two days later. On June 1, a policy to improve fund management for scientific research projects was discussed at the State Council executive meeting, giving universities and scientific research institutions more autonomy in project fund management and awarding more bonuses to researchers.
“The applause those scientific researchers gave shows us that on the one hand they support us while on the other hand they place high hope on us. They expect that we act on what we say and implement the good policies,” Premier Li noted at the State Council executive meeting.
He also stressed that efforts should be made to give more autonomy to universities and scientific research institutions and remove barriers that hinder innovation endeavor of researchers.
He said this after representatives from different research institutions complained about tightening of travel expenses.
“Top class scientific research institutions, universities, and scientific achievements never simply come out from government’s management. Further efforts should be made to promote reforms concerning power delegation, regulation and service in scientific research sectors and motivate scientific researchers’ enthusiasm in innovation,” he said.
The executive meeting on June 1 decided to streamline management of procurement for scientific research equipment and give more autonomy to infrastructure projects and decision on travel and meeting expenses to scientific research institutions and universities directly under central ministries.
The Premier’s decision to improve the regulation on the management of science and research funding can be traced back to a month ago when he visited Peking and Tsinghua universities on April 15.
He learned about the use of research funds in the two universities, and was told that the ratio of human resources costs to the total research project expenditure in Peking University’s fundamental mathematics research was only 30 percent, which is much lower than the ratio of universities in developed countries.
Mathematical sciences mainly depends on human’s brains, and the researchers’ share of financial rewards must be raised to arouse their research enthusiasms, the Premier said at a conference on the reform and innovation of higher education on the same day.
The State Council executive meeting on June 1 decided that ratio of merit pay for scientific research project personnel in direct expense (excluding equipment expenses) will be raised from 5 percent to 20 percent, proportional limits on labor cost for researchers will be removed and all participants in research projects, including postgraduates and research assistants, will be paid according to the standards.
The move is to acknowledge the value of talent, the biggest engine of growth, and if the interest of talented people could be aroused, the power would be immeasurable, said the Premier.
Improving the funds management measures and establishing a scientific management and operation mechanism should not be a simple slogan. The policies should be carried out and put into use, he added.
All the departments should take measures to revise related regulations and rules to make the scientific researchers who really make contributions get not only academic fame, but also real financial rewards, said the Premier.