China’s dip in research collaboration ‘temporary’, funder insists

Asian superpower’s drift away from international partnerships a result of the pandemic, says president of National Natural Science Foundation of China

October 12, 2022
An open door at the Temple of Heaven, China
Source: iStock

China’s retreat from international collaboration in scientific research will prove to be temporary, according to the head of one of the country’s largest funders.

The Asian superpower’s impressive advancement in research quality, shown by Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2023, was held back by a dip in overseas partnerships, with its scores in international outlook, international students, international co-authorship and international staff all decreasing.

Speaking at THE’s World Academic Summit at New York University, Jinghai Li, president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, admitted that collaboration was “facing difficulties due to different reasons, but mainly because of Covid-19”.

“I think it is temporary because we firmly believe the partnerships we have established between scientists will definitely continue as long as there is common interest, particularly when there are strong reasons for joint action,” he added.

Dr Li said he was pleased to see the progress of Chinese universities in the ranking and predicted that their rapid growth would continue in the coming years.

He said the country’s current economic downturn was unlikely to affect funding for universities and research, pointing out that his organisation’s budget had increased by 7 per cent every year for the past three years and that there was also more money available from local government.

Dr Li outlined how he intended to foster a “paradigm shift” in science that placed more focus on tackling global challenges.

He said reaching a consensus would be a “long-term process” and patience would be required, admitting that institutions have been used to addressing different problems in their “traditional way of disciplinary thinking” and were “holding on to long-established priorities which make it difficult to start new explorations”.

But he said he was optimistic because younger generations seemed eager to tackle the new challenges, and because “outstanding” graduates were increasingly choosing to go on to work in universities. Research funders could offer incentives to encourage this further, Dr Li added.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles