More money for pure science
A senior official said on Thursday that the state will increase investment in pure science research so that it accounts for 20 percent of total research and development (R&D) spending.
At a meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of key state laboratories and the fifth anniversary of the national pure R&D plan, Cheng Jinpei, vice minister of science and technology, said that heavy and stable investment is central to scientific advancement in many developed countries.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, R&D expenditure in 2003 reached 153.96 billion yuan (US$18.6 billion), or 1.31 percent of gross domestic product. Expenditure on pure science research made up 5.7 percent of this.
In comparison, the US spent 20 percent of its R&D funds on pure science research in the same year.
While playing its role as the biggest investor, Cheng said, central government should encourage state and private companies as well as individuals to invest as well.
Most pure science research is conducted by state laboratories and research teams who are mandated to undertake projects under the national pure science R&D plan.
Led by the then State Commission of Planning in 1984, a group comprising the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education and the Chinese Academy of Sciences organized a network of key state laboratories, similar to the US system.
By 2003, said Cheng, who is responsible for planning pure science research, China had established 161 key state laboratories and six pilot ones, with more than 5,000 researchers and three billion yuan worth of equipment. They obtained more than two billion yuan in funding from ministries, foundations and overseas sources.
In 2003, researchers working in state laboratories produced 7,835 papers listed by the Scientific Citation Index, after an average annual increase of 25 percent from 1999.
The state science and technology leading group, under the baton of then Premier Li Peng, decided in its third plenary meeting in 1997 to allocate special funds into pure science research and launch the national pure R&D plan, also called the '973 Plan'.
From 1998 to 2003, the state invested 3.3 billion yuan into 157 projects under this plan.
Scientists and technologists working for the projects published 52,000 papers, including 22,000 in foreign science journals, on the human genome, nanotechnology, neuroscience, paleontology chemistry and many other fields.
These projects are vital to the country's economy, security and social development, Cheng said. (Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2004)