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[BEIJING] Over 80 per cent of data relating to China's research into pure science — such as theoretical mathematics, physics and chemistry — will be freely available on the Internet, according to the country's top science official.

Xu Guanhua, China's minister of Science and Technology, revealed the country's data-sharing plan yesterday (23 October) at the international conference for the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA), an event focused on promoting data sharing worldwide.

In order to achieve its goal, China will establish 40 scientific data centres by 2010, covering 300 databases relating to the environment, agriculture, human health, pure science, engineering and regional scientific and technology information. All of them will be openly accessed through a public portal initiated by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

According to Xu, most of these centres are already being constructed.

Meanwhile, 32 national standards — specifications for data processing and storage — are being worked out to support the data-sharing through these data centres. Xu revealed that 23 of them have already been completed.

China has massively increased its science and technology investments in recent years. The central government's science spending is set to rise by 19.25 per cent to 71.6 billion yuan (US$8.95 billion) this year, the highest growth rate since Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening policies were adopted in the late 1970s.

However, there have been widespread complaints from scientists in China that data is not being adequately shared among the Chinese scientific community, which Xu said has undermined the country's goals for innovation.

"Part of the reasons [for this] is that the institutions owning these data hope to monopolise them so that they can produce more scientific results of their own," Qu Guosheng, a senior scientist from the National Earthquake Response Support Service, told SciDev.Net.

In his speech, Xu said that the science ministries and departments are aware of the problem. They are currently revising and designing laws and policies to make data sharing compulsory for publicly-funded research.

Laws being revised include the basic Scientific and Technology Promotional Law of China, which applies to the theoretical or pure sciences.

A new law specific to scientific data sharing is currently being drafted and should be submitted to the legislature for approval by next year.

The CODATA conference is held between October 23 and 25, and has attracted more than 600 scientists from 31 countries.