China to use AI to evaluate science fund applications as part of its reform

According to China Daily, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the country’s main foundation for basic scientific research, will undergo reforms to further support innovative talents and ground breaking scientific work.

On 19 June, Director of the National Natural Science Foundation of China Mr Li Jinghai said that the Foundation will put in place new procedures to promoting academic evaluation and honesty, as well as strengthening interdisciplinary and international collaboration. He also shared that these initiatives are in the pipeline and will be tested in selected projects and institutions in 2019.

“Right now, we are on the verge of major breakthroughs for the next technological revolution and industrial change, and we cannot afford to miss these opportunities like we did previously,” said Mr Li.

Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Mr Wang Zhigang stated that the Foundation should focus on supporting projects that can solve major and key challenges regarding China’s socioeconomic development and national security. He urged the Foundation to make more effort in supporting basic research, optimising institutional management, strengthening social services using new technologies and upholding academic honesty.

Currently, the Foundation is formulating reforms to better support advanced science fields that can breed major breakthroughs, and nurture world-class talents to enhance basic research and its applications, thus solving major obstacles.

The reform efforts include a revamping of the application, evaluation, funding, management and supervision processes of the foundation’s resources. Parts of the reform will be implemented in selected scientific projects next year.

The Foundation will create new mechanisms for funding and integrating different disciplines and their scientific applications, as well as building a smart evaluation system powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and other modern technologies.

The Foundation will also establish a strategic counseling committee, starting next year, to study research priorities, resource allocations and major scientific issues.

According to Mr Li, training innovative talents will be a priority for the Foundation and a “more comprehensive talent support system” is in the works, alongside a mechanism that links basic research, applied research and commercialization.

The Foundation’s budget grew from 16.1 billion yuan in 2013 to 26.7 billion yuan last year and has helped more than 739,000 researchers throughout China, according to its annual report.

Globally, the Foundation has funded 4,398 science projects and has partnered with more than 91 scientific foundations from 49 countries and regions.

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