Chinese researchers to get more autonomy over lab spending

Revised rules are designed to help researchers focus on their work and compete with their counterparts globally.

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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says the country will ease restrictive rules governing how research funds are used, and cut red tape for researchers.

In the past, Chinese researchers have complained that they can’t use grants to pay accountants to manage their finances, or to purchase urgently needed equipment, without going through a lengthy bidding process — and that this puts them at a disadvantage relative to researchers elsewhere.

Addressing a meeting of China’s high-powered state council on 4 July, Li vowed to remove such restrictions and give researchers new autonomy to increase their productivity and the vitality of their work. “We must remove the restraints on researchers as soon as possible so that they can devote themselves to their research,” he said.

“These measures, if implemented as indicated, will significantly reduce the amount of time that researchers spend on various tedious tasks mostly unrelated to creative activities,” says Cao Cong, a science-policy researcher at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Xue Lan, a science and innovation policy researcher at Tsinghua University in Beijing, says: “These new changes are critically important in giving researchers much more freedom in spending the money based on the need of the research, and focusing more on the research instead of on how to manage the spending account.”

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05688-8
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