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[BEIJING] The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is planning a scheme to advance research into scientific instrument development and systems that allow equipment to be shared more easily.

In a draft document, released last week (27 October), CAS says it will establish a fund to construct centres with the aim of improving current laboratory technologies and analysis methods, and developing new ones.

According to the document 30–50 such pilot centres will be set up, each with an annual fund of up to 1.5 million Chinese yuan (US$220,588) provided by CAS for several years. Twenty innovators in equipment development technologies will get a special allowance of US$147 per month in ten large-scale regional development centres.

CAS will also offer financial aid to five outstanding instrument developers, who will each be granted US$73,529 to US$147,059 in research funds.

At a CAS instrument management meeting last Tuesday (28 October), general secretary Li Zhigang pointed out that the established research model — where research groups develop and use their own equipment — has resulted in decentralisation of resources, difficulties in information sharing, and inefficient laboratory equipment.

While boosting research into instruments, the schemes will encourage individual research teams to share instruments, Li says.

Dai Liang, a senior engineer at the Qingdao-based CAS Institute of Oceanology, welcomes the measures, saying it is necessary to encourage scientists to fully utilise equipment and to invent new equipment and analysis methods.

But CAS researcher Yuan Ping says that different institutions have different ways of evaluating their scientists and it can be difficult to assess the contribution made by those who develop equipment.

According to Li, detailed regulations will be drawn up to evaluate scientists not only on the numbers and quality of published papers but also on how they have developed their research facilities.

"Besides talent cultivation, many problems in instrument charges and instrument sharing have to be overcome if the innovation in equipment development is to be achieved," says Huang Yongping, a professor from Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences of CAS.