Scientists in China have been promised better conditions for research under a government plan to upgrade science facilities.
The State Science and Technology Commission (SSTC) says the plan, which will be implemented over the next 15 years, is China's first long-term development strategy for scientific research since the People's Republic was founded in 1949.
State funding for scientific research will be increased over the next few years through government allocations, as well as through public and enterprise support, said Lin Quan, the SSTC's secretary-general in Beijing.
By 2000, China will have set up networks for equipment supply and maintenance, research testing and analysis, information and document indexing, and large production centres for general equipment in major cities with strong scientific and technological development.
A nationwide service network for scientific research is expected to be open by 2010, and high-quality chemicals for research and experiment will be in steady supply across the country.
Over the next two years, the plan will focus on improving imported equipment, increasing production of equipment, introducing new laws and regulations to safeguard the intellectual property rights of research programmes, and providing more training for researchers.
Lin said universities and research institutes in China possess scientific equipment valued at more than 28 billion yuan (about Pounds 2.1 billion).
But the country still has insufficient funds for scientific research, and a lot of equipment is more than ten years old and of poor quality.
Meanwhile, research programmes in four medical fields won 1.2 million yuan (Pounds 897,000) from the Sino-US Merck Fund for scientific research.
The fund was established by the International Health Exchange Centre under the ministry of health and an American firm. It aims to support studies in the control of common illnesses and upgrade the level of young Chinese medical scientists.