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September 20, 2011
Honest Research in China
Continuing a sort of informal series here on China's research environment, a reader sent along this editorial from China Daily. That, of course, is an organ of the Chinese government, and its title is a rather pointed one: "Honest Research Needed":
An investigation by the Chinese Association of Scientists has revealed that only about 40 percent of the funds allocated for scientific research is used on the projects they are meant for. The rest is usually spent on things that have nothing to do with research. . .Besides, the degree of earnestness most scientists show in their research projects nowadays is questionable. Engaging in scientific research projects funded by the State has turned out to be an opportunity for some scientists to make money. There are examples of some scientists getting research funds because of their connections with officials rather than their innovation capacity.
This would seem to be part of a broader anticorruption movement on the part of the government, which (from all reports) is finding plenty of material to work with. But I still have to wonder how effective that's going to be. As long as it's the state that is the main source of funding, the source of all permissions, and the final judge on what's worthwhile, then corruption has both a strong incentive to exist and a clear leverage point from which to work.
If you subsidize something, you're going to get it. It may be that the Chinese government has subsidized, in too many cases, something that was billed as "research", without realizing that it was going to have those quotation marks around it.
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