context: Sci-tech funding reform, initiated in 2014, put fund management and setting up academic selection committees in the hands of third-party agencies. But as state-owned entities, these agencies are independent in name only. Although reforms are making selection and evaluation processes more rational, competitive and transparent, many of the details still need to be worked out.

Reform of the science and technology system is gaining priority on the state’s central agenda, shows the decision on deepening reform of Party and state institutions issued by CPC Central Committee on 4 March 2018, according to Fang Hanting 房汉廷 Science and Technology Daily deputy chief. The document is the first mention of science and technology administration at a macro-management level rather than among public services, says Fang, noting it calls for

  • strengthening administrative functions by improving capabilities of planning, coordination, implementation, evaluation, rewards and punishment
  • optimising administration structure by consolidating agencies with overlapping functions
  • transitioning to macro-management, integrated operations and more emphasis on basic research and innovation