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Premier urges improvements to basic science research

Updated: Sep 04,2019 03:22 PM     english.www.gov.cn

"Basic research determines the depth and breadth of the nation’s technological innovation, and weak basic research is a main constraining factor", Premier Li Keqiang said at the symposium on the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars on Sept 2.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the fund. Before chairing the symposium, Premier Li and other leaders of the State Council reviewed the achievements sponsored by the fund.

Eight candidates for the fund made proposals at the meeting. Topics include reinforcing basic research, giving more support to young scientists, making breakthrough in key technologies and establishing an aid mechanism more tolerant of innovation failures. The Premier exchanged views with them and responded to their concerns.

‘No shortcuts’ in basic research

"Many of you mentioned the constraining factor, weak basic research," Premier Li said. "Solid basic research has a direct relation with our country's future of scientific and technological development," he said.

The Premier stressed there are no shortcuts in basic research. He also noted math is the foundation of basic research, and a major tool in other scientific research.

Premier Li urged researchers in this field to be fully determined and make solid efforts to achieve breakthroughs in key technologies constraining the country's innovation development.

Government at all levels should strengthen support for basic research in the long term and at a steady pace, and enterprises should be guided to increase their contributions, the Premier urged. The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars will play a bigger role in improving basic research and increasing innovative capacity.

Substantially increase indirect expenses, especially financial incentives

A mathematician said at the meeting math researchers mainly rely on thinking minds and academic exchanges. With few equipment needs, mathematicians only to exchange ideas together. However, such expenses can neither be applied for reimbursement nor be covered by financial incentives.

“Some fundamental research mainly depends on researchers’ individual brains. In these fields, some developed countries’ experiences deserve our attention because their individual subsidy accounts for a high proportion, while we are too rigid in management,” Premier Li said.

“The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars should cultivate a test bed for reform and play an exemplary role by favoring young scholars and benefiting younger scientists," the Premier said. The fund’s indirect expenses, especially the individual subsidy, should account for a larger proportion.

The fund should build a commitment system for independent and reasonable fund utilization by young scientific research personnel, while relevant departments should open up a green channel in management.

The Premier stressed young scholars subsidized by the fund should play a leading role and serve as models to guide more young people to advocate for science, and devote themselves to scientific research.

Innovation achievements usually not preplanned

“Innovation achievements are usually not preplanned. For example, Isaac Newton sat under an apple tree and discovered the law of gravity, which is a whim of inspiration. But the whim did not come from nowhere,” Premier Li said. “It resulted from his research and accumulated knowledge.”

The Premier said it is a must to carry forward scientist spirit, respect scientific laws and abide by scientific ethics. He asked authorities to improve administration and build a favorable atmosphere for researchers.

The National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars can be used as the country’s “venture capital fund”, which can both improve innovation and be tolerant of failures. As a result more scientific and technological personnel, especially younger ones, will be encouraged to explore the “no man’s land” and achieve more breakthroughs so as to make greater contributions to building a nation of innovation.

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