Researchers key to nation
Nearly 200 leading Chinese scientists in the basic science field received awards Thursday from the Ministry of Science and Technology for their innovative contributions removing bottlenecks to the country's social and economic development.
Five science gurus, including former State Councilor and academician Song Jian and Chairman of National Committee of China Association for Science and Technology Zhou Guangzhao, were named "great contributors" for leading or participating in China's basic research.
The awards ceremony was part of the ministry's celebration for 20th anniversary of the State Key Laboratory Plan and 5th anniversary of the 973 Plan.
The former initiative, which was introduced in 1984, was mainly aimed at building up basic research capacity and striving for breakthroughs in key technologies. Up to the end of 2003, more than 5,000 scientists have been engaged in state key laboratory research. Annually, more than two billion yuan (US$240 million) has been used in the initiative.
The latter, launched in March 1997, focused on the fields such as agriculture, energy, information, natural resources, life sciences and materials research.
State Councilor Chen Zhili hailed the achievements made by the award winners as "guarantees to help sustain China's social and economic development."
"Meanwhile, researchers engaged in basic research should be honored because their achievements are the sources of high-tech results," Chen said, addressing yesterday's awards ceremony.
She vowed the government will increase its input into basic research in the coming years.
"The commitment will be included in the national middle and long-term blueprints for science and technology development," said Chen.
The government is busy drafting that blueprint, which will map the development track for the country's science and technology efforts through 2020.
She said experiences from industrial countries have shown that "today's sufficient investment in basic research can lead to tomorrow's competitiveness in high-tech areas."
"They have cutting-edge technologies because of their past investment in basic research," said Chen.
China's total investment in government research and development has been growing rapidly in recent years. But the proportion of the money allocated to basic research has fallen from around 7.5 percent in the 1990s to 5 percent in 2003.
Cheng Jinpei, vice-minister of science and technology, shared Chen's view, saying "in an era of high technology, fast economic growth cannot be sustained without technological breakthroughs." These, in turn, depend on an adequate investment in research.
He said the government will try hard to channel 20 percent of the central government's total investment in science and technology into basic research during next 10-15 years.
Cheng also encouraged enterprises, individuals and foreign investors to participate in basic research.
"We are making efforts in shaping legislative framework to absorb more investors into basic research, in which the government should play an essential role," said Cheng.(China Daily December 24, 2004)