China's Science Funding

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Science  28 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6055, pp. 433
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214042

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the largest funding agency for basic research in the country. On this occasion, the leadership of the NSFC and the Chinese Ministry of Finance arranged for the NSFC to be reviewed by an International Evaluation Committee (IEC), which sets a new precedent for China. Part of the motivation for this review was a desire on the part of the Chinese government to determine how well their extensive efforts to boost the support of scientific research measure up to international standards. Apart from logistical arrangements, the IEC was completely independent in its operations. An “evidence-based review” (that is, an overview with extensive data) was carefully prepared by China's National Center for Science and Technology Evaluation. We were also given access to anyone with whom we wanted to speak, including those critical of the present Chinese research culture. Both the evidence-based review and the full report, with our comments and recommendations, are accessible online (www.nsfc.gov.cn/english/13rp/index.html). The process and results of this report should be useful not only for China but also for many other nations striving to produce a merit-based culture for science.