China's scientific research system is a cooperative one, comprising the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), schools of higher learning, industrial departments, national defense departments and local scientific research institutes. The over 160 national scientific and academic organizations affiliated to the China Association for Science and Technology, as well as its branches in various large and medium-sized cities, are also important forces in scientific and technological research.
The Beijing-based CAS is China's highest academic institute and comprehensive research center in natural sciences. Its academic divisions include mathematics and physics, chemistry, geography, biology, technological sciences, and it has more than 100 research institutes throughout China. Before 2010, the CAS plans to found some 80 national research institutes specializing in scientific and technological innovation and continuous development.
There are currently 688 CAS Academicians -- the highest life-time academic title the government grants in science and technology. The average age of the 58 elected in 2003 was 58.86, the youngest group ever, the two youngest being only 37 years old. The Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) is the highest honorary, consultative institute in engineering science and technology, conducting strategic studies of the state’s important engineering-related issues, providing consultation for decision-making, and promoting the development of engineering science and technology. There are 663 CAE academicians, including 62 elected in 2003.
The role of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is to support basic research and some applied research projects using government appropriations in line with the state's guiding principles and sci-tech development policies. Over the past dozen years, the NSFC has subsidized thousands of diverse research projects and about 60,000 scientists working in basic research.