[BEIJING] The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is considering reforms to help it provide better advice to the Chinese government and more guidance to the public.
One idea is to disclose its consultancy reports. "All the consultative reports written by CAS for the government should be open to the public, provided they do not involve national secrets," said CAS president, Lu Yongxiang, at a high-level forum on science-advising last month (15 April).
Other proposed measures include CAS producing more regular scientific reports for policymakers with wider participation by scientists from other institutions.
Since 1955, CAS's Academic Division (ADCAS) has offered a system whereby CAS members are consulted on issues of national development. ADCAS has advised the government on China's development strategy and is consulted about resolving problems relevant to science and technology.
But there has been no pressure to disclose the advice and the public has known little about the reports.
Zhu Daoben, a CAS member in charge of the academy's consultative affairs, says opening the reports up to the public would enhance their credibility and attract wider participation by other researchers.
At the forum, Lu said that the public pressure resulting from disclosing advisory reports would encourage policymakers to accept them.
Cao Xiaoye, vice secretary-general of CAS, who also spoke at the forum, said that the authors of these consultative reports should have the courage to make objective judgements and to comment on the government's actions.
Reports have had to be shaped to meet policymakers' tastes, or risk being ignored, said Zhang Laiwu, vice-minister of science and technology.
Yet despite the perceived imperfections in the consultative system, ADCAS's reports have contributed substantially to China's science and technology development. For example, CAS reports helped establish the National Natural Science Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Since 2000, ADCAS has submitted 120 consultative reports to the central government.