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[BEIJING] Science and technology research in China has seen modest improvement in the last 12 months — but this does not yet reflect the huge increase in government funding for science due to inefficient management of resources.

This is the conclusion of a progress report, released this week (29 January) by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The report shows an index of science and technology progress, which grew by 1.5 per cent in 2006 to 47.11 per cent. The index includes factors such as the science budget, published papers, patents filed, commercialisation of products and corporate investment in research and development (R&D).

Chinese science and technology enjoyed a ninth consecutive year of slight growth since 1997, according to the report.

The most important contributing factors to this rise were an increased science budget, improved science policy environment and higher levels of commercialisation.

Xu Guanghua, minister of science and technology, revealed that total R&D investment in China grew by 22 per cent in 2006, totalling 300 billion yuan (US$37.5 billion). This accounted for 1.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

However, despite the budget growth, the average scientific output — such as papers published — per researcher fell after rapid growth in the number of researchers. The report did not identify concrete figures for this.

It also warned that state-owned enterprises — which account for around 20 per cent of China’s total economic output, but monopolise the most highly profitable sectors such as oil, telecoms and banks — have performed poorly in building R&D capacity.

The report also stated that the gap between China’s rich eastern regions and its poorer western regions continues to widen in terms of scientific investment and output.

Jiang Guohua, a senior science policy researcher at the China National Institute for Education Research, said that although the index might not be very accurate, it correctly shows that the significant growth in the science budget has not resulted in high enough outputs in China.

"The science management system in China still needs to be reformed to optimise the use of resources," Jiang told SciDev.Net.