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[BEIJING] China aims to attract scientific talent from Chinese communities in other countries by offering long-term grants to researchers taking up positions in China.

The scheme, offering annual grants of one million yuan (US$120,000) for up to four years, was launched last week (11 April) by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the country's main funder of basic research.

No limit has been placed on the number of grants that will be given.

Yang Jing, an NSFC spokesperson, told SciDev.Net that this is the first time long-term funding for basic research has been made available to foreign citizens.

To be eligible, applicants must be 'overseas Chinese' — ethnically Chinese but with foreign citizenship.

As well as being younger than 45, they must have a doctorate and have been offered a position in a Chinese university or research institute. Scientists taking up posts in Hong Kong and Macao, however, will not be eligible for funding.

Applicants should be leading scientists in their area of research, and must do full-time research in China during the funding period.

Duan Yibing, a senior researcher with the Institute of Science Policy, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says the funding programme shows that China is being increasingly active and practical in attracting international talent.

Considering the low cost of doing in research in China, the amount of grant money would be attractive to overseas Chinese scientists, said Duan.

But he added that measures should be devised to ensure that sponsored scientists will remain in full-time research in China, and that their academic grade is not lower than that of their domestic counterparts.

There are tens of millions of overseas Chinese, most living in South-East Asia.