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National science foundation to invite foreign experts for research evaluation
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-07-04 11:14
China's prestigious science foundation plans to invite leading global scientists to evaluate its self-funded research projects.

Chen Yiyu, National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) chairman, was quoted by the People's Daily on Thursday as saying, "We'll invite the world's leading scientists in various disciplines to judge the merits of the programs we have sponsored."

"The international think-tank for performance evaluation will be formed as early as 2010," he said, citing the foundation had carefully studied evaluation procedures from equivalent organizations in the United States, Japan and Germany.

Copying the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), China set up the NSFC in 1986. It was widely rated as having research funding policies closest to the practices in industrialized countries.

The major difference between the NSFC and other Chinese funding channels is that the NSFC bases its fund granting decisions on transparent and independent reviews of outside scientists, whereas others choose grant recipients after close-door meetings.

The NSFC also uses public money to invest in research in basic science and applied technologies. Its funding preferences focus on cutting-edge research on academic frontiers.

Chen said the NSFC would grant 6.4 billion yuan (928 million U.S. dollars) in the fiscal year, an annual increase of 28 percent. The biggest portion would go to frontier research programs, which cost nearly 4.4 billion yuan. The average grant for key projects would reach 1.85 million yuan each.

China spent record 366.4 billion yuan on science research and development in 2007, or 1.49 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), making China the heaviest R&D spender among developing economies.

Although praised for its transparency and professional fund management, the NSFC only allocated a tiny portion of the country's total R&D funding.

Much bigger players are the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, the military and universities.

Many criticized the prevailing funding mechanism, charging it with squandering public money by paying excessive salaries and benefits for researchers and triggering cheats who win big grants.

One notorious case in 2006 saw a dean at Shanghai's Jiaotong University fake computer chips to justify tens of millions in research funds granted from the Ministry of Science and Technology. The dean was sacked from the post after an investigation.

Source:Xinhuanet 
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