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Change Afoot?

China is revamping how it awards research grants, Nature News reports. The two main competitive programs currently in place — called '863' and '973' — will be phased out by 2017 and replaced by five new channels.

In a previous post, Nature News said that the Chinese government was moved to make these changes because of "wastefulness and fragmented management," noting that some 30 government agencies oversee 100 competitive funding programs.

Under the new plan, the five new channels — small-scale natural sciences grants, major science and technology projects, key national research and development programs, and special projects for human resources and infrastructure development — will be overseen by a new science and technology agency.

But in its latest post, Nature News wonders whether it "it [will] be a real reform or just lip service."

Richard Suttmeier, an emeritus political science professor at the University of Oregon and consultant to the Chinese government on science policy, says that the reforms may be just "a repackaging of existing program under new organizational arrangements — the 'old wine in new bottles' phenomenon," though it also has the potential to be a "significant repurposing of government programs."

He adds that it all depends on what changes are made to the organizational system in the next couple of years.