Chi­nese re­searchers must adopt a more long-term per­spec­tive

China Daily (USA) - - COMMENT -

JA­PAN’S TASUKU HONJO, a pro­fes­sor of im­munol­ogy of Ky­oto Univer­sity, won the 2018 No­bel Prize in medicine, to­gether with the James Al­li­son, a pro­fes­sor of im­munol­ogy with the Univer­sity of Texas of the United States, for their re­search that has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the treat­ment of can­cer last week. Xinhua News Agency com­ments:

Ja­panese sci­en­tists have brought home 18 No­bel Prizes over the past 18 years, dur­ing which their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts have se­cured only one — phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal chemist Tu Youyou, won the No­bel Prize in Medicine in 2015 for her ground­break­ing work on malaria in the 1960s.

Un­doubt­edly, China can learn a lot from Ja­pan on how to strengthen its sci­en­tific re­search. Long-term sta­ble sup­port for fun­da­men­tal re­search, a strong cri­sis aware­ness, and pay­ing great at­ten­tion to cul­ti­vat­ing young sci­en­tists and re­searchers are the three pil­lars of Ja­pan’s sci­en­tific re­search suc­cess.

Sur­veys on No­bel lau­re­ates in sci­ence and eco­nom­ics since the 1940s have shown that the av­er­age time in­ter­val be­tween their win­ning of the prize and their prize-win­ning dis­cov­ery is 26 years. In other words, few No­bel lau­re­ates had re­ally thought about the honor when they be­gan the re­search that led to their key dis­cov­er­ies. Their work was driven by their cu­rios­ity and aca­demic in­ter­est.

How­ever, many Chi­nese sci­en­tists are ea­ger for quick suc­cess and in­stant ben­e­fits, and their re­search is mostly ori­ented to­ward ob­tain­ing gov­ern­ment funds or quick in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. Few are will­ing to ded­i­cate years to dif­fi­cult fun­da­men­tal re­search that may not re­sult in any con­crete find­ings.

Also the re­search as­sess­ment sys­tem in China is fo­cused on the num­ber of pa­pers re­searchers pub­lish, not the qual­ity of their work. And the num­ber of the­ses pub­lished in China and the in­crease of China’s in­put into re­search in re­cent years have dwarfed many other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ja­pan.

The white pa­per books on sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy pub­lished by the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment each year, mean­while, in­di­cate the num­ber of pa­pers pub­lished by Ja­panese sci­en­tists has de­clined slightly since 2004, and the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment’s in­put into re­search and devel­op­ment only in­creased 15 per­cent from 2000 to 2018.

China needs to at­tach more im­por­tance to the qual­ity of it re­search, pro­vid­ing more in­cen­tives to en­cour­age fun­da­men­tal re­search and fur­ther im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of its in­put in re­search and devel­op­ment.

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