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[BEIJING] Amid rising claims of misuse of Chinese research funding, the country's science ministry is planning to set up a centre to assess how the money it disburses is spent.

Shang Yong, vice-minister of science and technology, told Xinhua news agency on Monday (10 July) that the ministry would also clarify the responsibilities of people involved in reviewing funding.

He added that a publicly accessible online database would be set up detailing the management of state-funded research, as well as detailed information on every funding application.

China has significantly increased its science budget in recent years. This year, the government's science spending will rise by 19 per cent to 71.6 billion yuan (US$9 billion).

However, it has been increasingly claimed that China's system of allocating science funding is inefficient and lacks transparency.

Zhu Xiaomin, a science policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says a key problem is that the ministry both decides on funding and oversees research, making it hard for it to objectively evaluate how money is spent.

Zhu told SciDev.Net that this could be overcome if the centre that the ministry sets up to evaluate science funding is created as an independent body.

To be truly effective, says Zhu, the centre must increase transparency and conduct detailed audits of key state-funded science programmes.

Tao Jinsong, a spokesperson for the ministry, told SciDev.Net that the centre's launch date had not been decided, and that details of how it will operate needed to be refined.