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China and Global Change: Opportunities for Collaboration
In order to understand opportunities for global change research in China, it is useful to look at the panel's findings from both topdown and bottom-up perspectives. Science in China is driven by government policies and priorities, and so is inherently a top-down enterprise. First, governmental interest and resources definitely favor studies of the impacts of environmental change on China, as opposed to the impact of China on global change. Consequently, Chinese researchers have focused on questions that stress the human dimensions of environmental change and on the social and economic impacts of climate change. Second, funding for global change research has been slow in developing. The main source for these funds, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), does not have the budget necessary to fund the broader based or larger scale research that many global change issues require. Third, funding and research are organized along disciplinary lines, which complicate the development of interdisciplinary research. Fourth, scientific institutions are vertically organized and integrated, which can discourage cooperation.
From the bottom-up perspective, the Chinese scientific community almost universally considers working on global change topics to be a challenge, an opportunity and, given China's vulnerability to climatic disasters, a responsibility. Moreover, these scientists are pursuing this research with energy, commitment, and creativity. It is important to note that many of the problems Chinese scientists face in developing a global change research program are similar to those faced by scientists in the United States, including resistance from institutions organized to address traditionally well-defined and more disciplinary problems, lack of appropriately cross-trained scientists, and the difficulties of developing funding for new programs.
Problems of data availability and the cost of data indicate the lack of organizational integration and policies that promote proprietary interests. When data are not available across structures, institutions respond by generating the data they need themselves. When institutions can control data, then data can become commodities. Moreover, decreases in funding are increasing the pressure to sell data profitably.
The way Chinese data are managed can be a major stumbling block to collaboration. Resources and rewards are few for carrying out basic documentation. Because data sharing and intercomparison are not promoted, the incentive for documenting data for others' use is reduced. Because research results are often published in journals of the institutes in which the research was conducted, the lack of external peer review by the broader scientific community reduces the