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Chinese Think-tanks Cut Administrative Interference

Jun 13, 2014     Email"> PrintText Size

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) have redrafted their charters to cut administrative interference in their operations.

The amended charters, which also vie to rectify a tendency to chase profits, have been ratified during the biennial conference of China's top two think tanks, which started on Monday and will close on Friday.

The new charters have modified their previous editions, both put forward in 2008, on aspects including nomination and exit mechanisms of members by depriving governments, universities and enterprises of their nominating rights.

Nominating rights are now limited to incumbent members and academic groups.

The CAE stipulated that a candidate has to obtain no fewer than three votes from members of the same division of the CAE to be a viable nominee, and each incumbent member can nominate no more than two candidates.

The CAS required that viable nominees be determined by the presidium of each academic division.

The move is intended to ensure the selection of nominees is based purely on academic grounds.

The biennial selection of members bears the brunt of administrative interference in these two organizations. A lot of nominees have in the past been recommended by governments, localities and enterprises, with many such nominations driven by the interests of administrators.

In China, where they are often referred to as "academicians," members of prestigious thinks tanks are offered various perks, such as help in getting their works published. Therefore, members can bring benefits to their organizations and represent the prestige of the university or the locality they come from.

Zhai Guangming, a CAE member, believes giving members and academic groups sole rights to nominate candidates will help ensure the right candidate fills the position, because nominees are best known among his or her fellow researchers in the same discipline.

"In the past, there were many nomination channels; some nominees we barely knew and could only refer to their application materials," Zhai said.

Meanwhile, according to the redrafted CAS and CAE charters, selection of new members now requires a vote by the whole academy, rather than just one of its divisions.

Xu Rigan, a CAE member, said academy-wide voting is international common practice, and one that helps test a candidate's recognition among a wider academic circle.

On exit mechanisms, the new charter stipulates that should any member violate scientific ethics or lack personal integrity, and they tarnish the reputation of members or the academy, they will be "advised to resign."

The CAS added that if the misconduct is so serious as to imperil national interests and to break the law, membership will be revoked.

Recent years have seen some members not concentrating on research work, but profiting from their membership by holding various posts, some quite lucrative.

In 2013, there were media reports that Zhang Shuguang, former head of the Railways Ministry's transportation bureau, confessed at his trial for bribery that some of the bribes he took were used to gain votes in the election for CAS membership.

Zhang was recommended for CAS membership by the Railways Ministry in 2007 and 2009, but failed in both elections.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the Monday session of the conference. Xi called for further reform of China's scientific and technological system, and vowed to eradicate ideological and systematic obstacles.

The CAS, founded in 1955, has 743 members, while the CAE, founded in 1994, has 802. The CAS charter has been amended eight times and the CAE charter five times. (Xinhua)

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