The scientific research system of China consists of the sci-tech forces from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), institutions of higher learning, industrial departments, national defense departments, and local scientific research institutions, as well as the rational division of responsibilities and coordination among them. There are also over 160 national scientific and technological academic organizations under the jurisdiction of the China Association of Science and Technology, with branches in large and medium-sized cities, which are also an important force in scientific and technological research. With its headquarters in Beijing, the CAS is the paramount academic organ and comprehensive research center for the natural sciences. It has departments of mathematics and physics, chemistry, earth sciences, biology, technology, etc. It has 123 research institutes, employing over 60,000 scientific and technological personnel. Research organs attached to the CAS are located throughout the country, and branch academies have been established in provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities where research organs are concentrated. The CAS has selected its 689 academicians, including senior academicians and women academicians, from among high-level scientists, professors and engineers credited with significant contributions in their fields. The Academicians General Meeting of the CAS is the supreme state consultative organ on science and technology. The Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), founded in June 1994 in Beijing, is the most respected and senior academic advisory institution in China’s engineering community. It currently has 616 academicians, the youngest being 41 years old. Among the newly elected academicians in 2001, there was for the first time an expert from Taiwan. So far, the CAE has academicians from all provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) except Jiangxi and Guizhou.
Research work in institutions of higher learning forms an important part of many research fields, especially of the studies of the basic theories of the natural sciences and humanities. In the past few years, rapid progress has also been made in studies on applied basic theories at institutions of higher learning. In their cooperation with other research institutions and industrial departments, the scientific and technological personnel of these institutions have invented a unique mode of development that starts from schools to scientific research and further to production. That is, use theories to solve problems in production first, and return to the market to produce competitive products, so as to transform knowledge into an actual productivity. As this has proved to be successful, institutions of higher learning have now become important partners for small and medium-sized enterprises striving to develop scientific and technological products.
The State Natural Science Foundation Committee was established in February 1986, with the approval of the State Council. Its task is to render assistance to basic research projects and some applied research projects with funds allocated from the state treasury, in line with the state’s guiding principles for the development of science and technology. In the past decade and more, the Committee has subsidized more than 40,000 projects in the natural sciences. The present Committee has 26 members, including 18 academicians from the CAS and the CAE. The National Committee for Scientific and Technological Awards (NCSTA) was founded in December 1999. The principal duties of the NCSTA are to engage relevant experts and scholars, and exercise macro control and guidance over the bestowal of awards for science and technology. That is, they make decisions on winners of the state scientific and technological prizes, and the categories and grades of their prizes. They also make policy-related comments and proposals on how to improve work in this regard.
The “social force” prizes, an important component of China’s scientific and technological prize system, recently approved by the state, are regular scientific and technological prizes established by enterprises and institutions, mass organizations and individuals both at home and abroad, using non-governmental funds. They have been set up to reward individuals and organizations that have made excellent achievements or outstanding contributions in scientific research, technical innovation and development, as well as the industrialization of new and high technology and the application and promotion of scientific and technological achievements. A total of 26 such prizes were established in March 2001, with the approval of the relevant state departments, including the prize for scientific and technological progress of China’s automobile industry, Du Pont prize for scientific and technological innovation, Li Siguang prize for geology, Zhan Tianyou prize for civil engineering, Gao Shiqi prize for popular science, and the prize for the development of Chinese pharmaceuticals.