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[BEIJING] The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has released a 'roadmap' for science and technology development over the next fifty years.

The roadmap covers issues surrounding 18 subjects including agriculture, ecology and environment, human health and ocean science. According to the Academy, these are areas where work is necessary in order to pave the way for a "technological and industrial revolution" that will be probably seen in 10–20 years.

"If you don't plan for the future, you will be distracted by what happens in the short term," said Lu Yongxiang, president of CAS, at a news briefing last month (10 June).

"Each transformation society goes through is closely related to a scientific breakthrough," he said. "Innovation must be the ultimate solution for any economic crisis."

One of the roadmap’s priorities is energy security and the plan covers the development and deployment of clean, energy efficient technologies including hydrogen energy and fuel cell technologies.

With regards to human health, China will aim to transform from treating disease to preventing it. To do this it aims to combine insights from a variety of research areas including biology, environment, psychology and society, says the plan.

The roadmap is a logical extension of the 15-year science and technology plan issued in 2006, says Thomas Ratchford, director of the Science and Trade Policy Program at George Mason University in the United States.

This Mid-to-Long-Term Plan for Development of Science and Technology (2006 - 2020), issued by the State Council of China, highlights the importance of research in basic sciences and frontier technologies. As well as 16 mega technological projects, including new drug development and water treatment, the 15-year plan also prioritises basic research into areas such as nanotechnology, and development and reproduction science.

But the new roadmap has generated some criticism. It is so full of uncertainty that it is not possible to use it to plan how science should develop, says Li Xia, a philosophy of science professor at Central South University.

Li also says that it is not possible to guarantee that science will be boosted merely by increasing investment: "For every country that needs to improve investment in science and technology, it must be accompanied by an institutional reform to provide a proper evaluation system".

But Geoff Oldham, former chairman of the United Nations Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development, says: "A long-term perspective can help planners think together about the future, and get away from immediate constraints. Such visionary work is rarely the basis for immediate policy."