China continues pouring cash into basic science

The Chinese government's budget for basic research is set to increase by more than a quarter this year.

March 15, 2012

According to Science magazine's Science Insider website, a draft budget published last week pledges more than 32 billion yuan (£3.3 billion) for basic research in 2012.

This represents a 26 per cent increase on last year's budget.

Overall, Chinese state spending on science and technology is set to increase by more than 12 per cent to nearly 230 billion yuan.

The news follows a succession of lavish increases for Chinese science funders in recent years.

The budget of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the country's main competitive funding agency, was doubled between 2009 and 2011.

The impact of increased funding has been reflected in higher outputs.

A report prepared for the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last year by Elsevier showed that China's production of published research papers rose from just under 200,000 in 2006 to more than 330,000 in 2010.

Similar figures were recorded in a report on physics bibliometrics prepared earlier this year for the Institute of Physics by Thomson Reuters. It shows that China's share of physics papers produced globally rose from 8.2 per cent in 2001 to 18.6 per cent in 2010.

However, the quality of China's papers continues to lag behind those of Western countries. The citation impact of its physics papers, for instance, has barely improved in the past decade and still languishes well below the world average.

But a report prepared for the 1994 Group by Elsevier last year showed that China is increasing its world share of papers in 95 per cent of fields in which it is already strong.

Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said that while the country's rise was "inevitable", a boost to its research budget was "great news" for scientists worldwide.

"What's unfortunate is that as China is increasing investment, the UK is doing the opposite, making it harder for us to pursue research and industrial collaborations," he said.

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