China issues regulations for improving security and management of scientific data

According to a report in China Daily, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China has issued new regulations for improving the management, security, accuracy and openness of scientific data.

In recent years, China has witnessed a massive growth in scientific and technology research & development. According to statistics compiled by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), China surpassed the United States in terms of the total number of science publications for the first time in 2016.

Further scientific development will depend on the availability and sharing of large, reliable sets of scientific data.

However, China lacked a national-level regulation to govern the data, and its management has lagged behind developed countries, according to Ye Yujiang, director of the Ministry of Science and Technology's basic research department, as quoted in the China Daily article.

He added that a lot of valuable data has not been fully utilised by Chinese scientists and some has leaked to foreign countries.

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia have issued regulations since the late 1960s, to improve data protection and management, along with encouraging the openness and increased use of scientific and governmental information. 

These new measures are expected to enhance scientific and technological innovation, economic and social development, and also state security.

The regulations aim to clarify the responsibilities of officials and scientists who regulate and use the information. With regards to classified data, related to areas such as national defense, trade secrets and personal privacy, China will strengthen security and enhance the ability to track data leaks and erase lost data. 

According to the regulations, scientists will have to submit data to relevant authorities for filing before publishing it in foreign science journals. Scientific data sets will also be required to better identify their origins and researchers, allowing clearer citations and stronger protection of intellectual property (IP).  

"In some instances, a lot of valuable data has not been fully utilised by Chinese scientists, and some has even leaked to foreign countries," Ye said. "Data regulation has been a weak link in China's effort to become a global technological powerhouse, so the new regulations are welcome remedies." 

Sun Jiulin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, said that “unlike scientific equipment, which is subject to wear and tear, scientific data can become more valuable over time and more useful as research methods and technologies improve”. 

Though scientific output from China has grown significantly over the past couple of decades, problems have been faced regarding data and peer review fraud and hundreds of papers have been retracted (Recent example here) . Sometimes, third-party companies been involved in the fraud.  Last year, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST)’s regulatory division subjected 400 researchers listed as authors on 107 retracted papers to strong disciplinary action. 

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