The country should establish a system to recognize and encourage young scientists, Premier Li Keqiang said at an executive meeting of the State Council on Dec 12.
Premier Li, who was briefed on the review of the National Science and Technology Awards for this year, said: “I agree that the National Science and Technology Awards should go to scientists of older generations who have made significant contributions. However, there should be another national award for younger scientists.
“We should not only acknowledge the achievements of older scientists but also encourage younger ones who have made accomplishments.”
In 1999, the State Council set up the National Science and Technology Awards, which contain five categories, and are given annually to inspire people and organizations that have made great contributions greatly to the development of the country’s science and technology.
The Top National Science and Technology Award, the highest of the five categories, is given to no more than two people every year.
Last year, the Top National Science and Technology Award went to physicists Cheng Kaijia and Zhang Cunhao, aged 95 and 85 respectively. A year earlier, it went to two scientists aged 88 and 74. In 2011, two scientists who won the award were 91 and 89.
Li also said that the country needs to create an atmosphere where innovation by young people is encouraged.
“Many people are silver-haired when they win major international science awards, but the awards are for achievements made majorly when they were young. Our culture of innovation should be one that not only respects senior scientists but also rewards younger ones. Only this way can our country be vigorous in innovation,” he said.
Premier Li also recalled the time when he, as a college student, cowrote an article with a professor which was published in a magazine.
The professor insisted on putting Li’s name before his in the byline, but the magazine’s editors switched the order of the names.
“Older scientists want young researchers to grow as fast as possible and even overtake them, but some people stick to tradition rigidly and put a premium on seniority,” said the Premier.
Addressing the annual meeting of the Global Research Council held in Beijing in May, Li emphasized that the scientific circles should attract more young talent and support those with potential.
“Without young scientists matching and surpassing their seniors, the future of science would be gloomy,” he said.