[BEIJING] China's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has signed partnership deals with the country's provincial governments in an attempt to strengthen regional 'grassroots' science.
MOST signed partnership deals with northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and central China's Henan Province respectively earlier this week (13 March).
The ministry has already signed a series of similar agreements with 12 provincial governments of China's 31 provinces and municipalities.
"MOST will help provincial governments to improve regional science and technology and enhance their independent innovation capability," said science minister Xu Guanhua at the signing ceremony.
Under the deal with Xinjiang, MOST will help build scientific and technological capacity and develop research relevant to the region, such as desertification and water-use research.
With Guangxi, MOST will help the region to build a technological transfer platform and develop its metal and biofuel industries.
In Henan, the MOST deal is focused on agricultural science and improving technology used for the province's equipment-manufacturing industry.
Science resources have not been evenly spread in China. Most of the country's scientific budgets are spent by the central government, and by local governments in richer coastal regions.
"With these deals, the resources will be allotted much better than before, which is important for science innovations in the grassroots level," says Zhu Xiaomin, a senior researcher at the Institute of Policy and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Zhu added that sometimes the central government's science projects overlap with those of the local governments. The deals will improve communication so this can be reduced.
Hu Zhiqiang, a professor of science policy at the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says that scientists in remote areas have been at a disadvantage, with a detrimental effect on local S&T capacities.
Besides receiving more financial resources, institutes in bigger cities have better equipment, and the scientists are better known in the peer review process for scientific funding.
"With the ministry-province partnership agreements, MOST can directly supply some research funding for regionally relevant research projects to help improve local scientists' capacities," Hu says.