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Unawarded First Prize, Positive or Negative?
While the five-million-yuan state preeminent science and technology award caught the nation's attention, China's scientific circles were more concerned about the unattributed first prizes of other state awards.

Head of the State Science and Technology Awards Office Huang Yingda said that his office had introduced world-level standards into the achievements appraisal and awarding. In accordance with its strict rules for judging scientific achievements, the first prizes for both the State Natural Science Award and the State Technological Invention Award have not been awarded for four consecutive years.

Huang said that the judging panel overwhelmingly agreed to stick to internationally accepted criteria in scientific and technological fields.

"Although the Chinese government has emphasized scientific development in the last two decades," Huang said, "Chinese scientists have not been able to attain many innovative goals in basic sciences and basic applied research."

Huang said that the first prize is set up to award scientific breakthroughs and great inventions which should greatly benefit society or bring economic returns.

Experts from the National Natural Science Foundation of China said that the state-level scientific body should invest more in organizing large-scale research on some key projects. And they urged the state to encourage more professionals to improve scientific development in the future.

While some scientists spoke of an inability for innovation, some others were inclined to keep a open mind.

Wang Xuan, computer technology professor at Beijing University who gained the 2001 State Preeminent Science and Technology Award, said that long-term academic accumulation might lead to a tiny success. He is strongly opposed to activities aimed at quick success and instant benefits.

"An unawarded first prize might stimulate scientists to make more contributions to the state," he said.

Promising young scientists in the country are not expected to look passively on. Some talented people in the Institute of Mathematics and System Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have formed a group to study the most sophisticated mathematical puzzles. And the CAS Institute of Physics has set up a research center on quanta structure, in a bid to do pioneering work in the field.

Their work may lead to some breakthroughs.

(Xinhua News Agency February 3, 2002)

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