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100m Yuan Injected into Science Funding

The central government has decided to inject an extra 100 million yuan (US$12 million) into science funding this year nationwide, bringing China's expected investment in this sector nationwide to 2.2 billion yuan (US$265 million) for 2004, said Chen Yiyu, the newly appointed president of National Natural Science Foundation of China.

The fund will become part of China's investment supporting basic research projects in disciplines like life, earth, material and engineering sciences, information and management sciences, mathematics, chemistry, physics and other research. Total investment in this area stood at 2.1 billion yuan (US$253 million) last year.


Nationwide, about 5 percent of the government's total research and development investment will be at the basic level.


"But for the long run, that investment is not compatible with China's fast economic growth," Chen told China Daily in an exclusive interview. "That will be among major considerations when the government maps its middle- and long-term plans for science and technology development."


Despite the fact that China's total research and development (R&D) investment in science has been boosted considerably in previous years, the growth pace in basic research has not been so obvious.


Statistics indicated that the ratio of basic research to total R&D investment has decreased to present 5.3 percent from 7.5 percent in 1990s.


He cited that the ratio was over 20 percent when Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) were in their economic take-off periods in the 1960s and 1970s.


Chen, appointed by the State Council two months ago, said his organization has prepared a strategic report for China's basic research projects during the next 15 years.


"The report will be an essential part of strategic research of China's middle- and long-term science and technology development plan," said Chen.


But he didn't go into details of the report, which the central government will assess and approve soon.


China has started its seventh planning of long-term scientific and technological development since last Spring. Premier Wen Jiabao headed the co-ordination panel drawing up the strategy.


Many science and technology organizations in foreign countries will act as consultants in China's science and technology development strategy over the next 15 years. Among them will be National Science Foundation of the United States.


Heading a team of six renowned American scientists, deputy director of NSF Joseph Bordogna, co-chaired a two-day Sino-US forum on basic science which ended Tuesday in Beijing.


"In an era of high technology, fast economic growth cannot be sustained without technological breakthroughs," Bordogna said.


He said the new situation calls for a more up-to-date national strategy which looks further forward. This is of great importance to the competitiveness of China and the United States in the coming decades.


"We are here to show what we do in the United States, and I hope this is useful for China," Bordogna said.


He said the US Government has paid considerable attention to creating a diverse, competitive, and globally-engaged workforce of scientists, engineers, technologists and well-prepared citizens.


Meanwhile, the government has funded the most promising ideas to advance discoveries in science and engineering, and in learning and innovation which offer the greatest good to society.


"We also invest in tools -- broadly accessible, state-of-the-art science and engineering facilities and other infrastructure -- to promote and facilitate discovery, learning, and innovation," Bordogna said.


(China Daily February 18, 2004)


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