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[BEIJING] The Chinese government should make greater efforts to co-ordinate research on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), according to leading Chinese science policy experts.

"Many institutes and colleges are involved in SARS-related research in China," says Xue Lan, dean of the School of Public Policy and Administration at Tsinghua University. "This research should be better coordinated to avoid resource waste and unnecessary repetition.''
Xue also urges the government to increase its support for public health research to avoid future outbreaks of epidemics such as SARS, which has infected more than 4,000 Chinese individuals and killed more than 200.

Chinese scientists have been heavily engaged in research into the SARS outbreak, with dozens of institutes and research-oriented pharmaceutical companies in China conducting research that ranges from sequencing the genome of the virus that causes the disease to developing potential medicines.

But because China's science institutes belong to different government departments, they are not communicating this research adequately to other scientists, says Xue.

Dai Xiuyu, director of research at the Microorganisms Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), says that her institute regularly shares information with other life science institutes. But she confirms that the institute does not regularly contact other research institutes outside CAS.

Mu Rongping, deputy director of the CAS Institute of Science Policy Research, also calls for a system to identify what he describes as "charlatan" scientific institutes that are trying to increase their status by claiming to perform research on SARS.

He says that some small institutes with poor facilities have falsely claimed that they have made great achievements in SARS-related research. "Science media and mass media should form the first defensive line against such exaggerations,'' he says.

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