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China to encourage young scientists to take on key research responsibilities

By Liang Shuang | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-29 21:19

China's central authorities have released a slew of measures to encourage talented youths in the field of science to shoulder heavier research responsibilities and reduce their pressure in promotion and unnecessary administrative affairs.

A guideline unveiled on Sunday by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council calls for relevant departments — such as universities, research institutes and key laboratories — to put more young talented scientists in key positions and projects, help them by investing more financially, and address concerns and suggestions from them, so that they can devote themselves whole-heartedly into scientific research.

For example, the guideline requires that scientists under 40 years old should take up at least half of the leading and "backbone" positions in major national science missions and projects that tackle vital and pressing problems. In addition, scientists under 45 should take up at least a third in expert panels who evaluate the performance of various national-level science projects.

To better support young scientists financially, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, an institute administered by the Ministry of Science, will have more than 45 percent of the projects it sponsors led by scientists under 40 to support them in original, cutting-edge and cross-disciplinary research.

Moreover, research and development budgets should favor early-stage independent projects by scientists under 35, according to the guideline, which encouraged institutes to allocate more than half of their basic R&D budgets into such projects.

To address young scientists' concerns in getting professional rankings, the guideline requires institutes to set their performance and promotion evaluation standards reasonably, adding that institutes should strongly oppose judging scientists solely by the number of published papers. Meanwhile, the evaluation of institutes should also avoid using number of papers and awards as criteria so that institutes won't pass on the pressure to individual scientists.

At the same time, the guideline said that institutes should relieve young scientists from red tapes, such as by streamlining reimbursement procedures, avoid unnecessary public relations activities and cut administrative affairs. Institutes should see to it that young scientists can devote at least 80 percent of their time in scientific research.

The guideline pointed out that institutes should pay more attention to offering care to young scientists' lives, such as by guaranteeing proper salaries, leaves, physical and mental health checkups, and try to provide help in their accommodation and their children's schooling.

The measures come as China is seeking to boost its scientific and technological capabilities in order to achieve its goal of becoming a leading global power in science and technology by 2035.

The Ministry of Science said that the number of graduated doctoral students in natural science amounted to 450,000 from 2012 to 2021, and about 20,000 postdoctoral researcher in natural science are employed in research stations nationwide annually.

"We will push employers at the local level to make detailed plans on these measures," the ministry said in an explanatory statement, adding that they will evaluate the implementation and solve emerging problems accordingly.

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