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Part II Development Tasks and Special Arrangements

Chapter 8 Disciplinary Development

12. Considerations for Balanced, Coordinated and Sustainable Disciplinary Development. Disciplines constitute a cornerstone for scientific research and talent training. Balanced, coordinated and sustainable disciplinary development is an important basis for realizing priority breakthroughs and great-leap-forward development in science and technology and also an important guarantee for science-based technological innovation and economic growth. The Promotion of balanced, coordinated and sustainable disciplinary development is an important mission of the National Natural Science Fund and also the requirement for implementing the strategic orientation of attaching greater emphasis on basic research, frontier research and talent fostering. Number of issues should be paid much attention in order to get the disciplines development in a balanced, coordinated and sustainable way: emphasize basic or traditional disciplines, truly strengthen weak or endangered disciplines, positively support basic data accumulation and database building, vigorously promote cross-disciplinary researches, and give overall consideration to integrate various funding instruments of research program, personnel training and environmental improvement.

First of all, the disciplinary development is based on vast and deep research on disciplinary development strategy. much effort should be made to take full play of science department’s expert advisory committees to carry out research on disciplinary development strategies on a regular basis, as well as regularize and institutionalized research on disciplinary policy to timely grasp of the latest developments of science frontiers and human resources for providing a scientific and sound basis for decision making on disciplinary policies, Secondly, disciplinary funding management should be improved with the effort to accurately understand and respect the unique features and laws of disciplinary development, explore for funding models that conform to the laws of disciplinary development and personnel growth, and establish and improve the adjustment mechanism of disciplinary panels in conformity with the trends of disciplinary development. Thirdly, it is to promote cross-disciplinary researches. While promoting balanced and coordinated disciplinary development, the funding instruments of Key Program Major Program and Major Research Plan will be effectively utilized to promote cross-disciplinary researches and cultivate new disciplinary research so as to better serve China’s development targets in science and technology, economy and society. Finally, the evaluation on disciplinary development will be initiated. The evaluation should be carried out in a timely manner, by means of expert judgment and bibliometric method in a unified way, and select indicators for disciplinary development evaluation in a scientific way so as to assess the development and international influence of China’s disciplines in terms of research scale, development stage, academic impact, representative results and international cooperation.

On the basis of an overall consideration of the international trends of disciplinary development and the current situation of China’s basic research, and the strategic requirements of balanced, coordinated and sustainable disciplinary development, the NSFC has taken natural science, engineering science and management science as the fundamental frameworks to select following 19 disciplines which will receive priority support in the next five years. The 19 disciplines are included as mathematics, physics, astronomy, mechanics, chemistry, nanoscience, biology, agricultural science, brain science and cognitive science, medical science, earth science, space science, environmental science, oceanography, engineering science, material science, energy science, information science and management science.

13. Disciplinary Development Strategies

Mathematics: Mathematics is a science to study the quantitative relationship and spatial relations among objects abstracted from the real world. It mainly consists of number theory and algebra, geometry and topology, analysis and equation, probability and statistics, operations research and control theory, mathematical logic, combinatorial mathematics, computational mathematics, and together with many interdisciplinary areas generated by the interaction of mathematics with other scientific disciplines. In the next five years, more concerns will be given to weak areas like mathematical logic, functions of several complex variables and complex geometry, non-commutative geometry, models of discrete probability, optimization algorithm and combinatorial algorithm. Research in mathematical modeling, analysis and computation and methods and theory of massive complex data statistics in applied oriented problems will be encouraged. More effort will be expended to promote and enhance interaction and amalgamation among different branches of mathematics. Focus will be on the outstanding and significant issues in the frontiers of mathematics. Top priorities will be given to algebraic number theory and algebraic geometry, global differential geometry and low-dimensional topology, operator algebra, mathematical physics, and scientific computing.

Mechanics: Mechanics is a science concerned with the force, the movement produced by forces, and the relationship between them, which generally includes the basic issues and methods of mechanics, dynamics and control, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, biomechanics, explosion and shock & impact mechanics, and many other branches of mechanics. For the next five years, all-out support will be given to low-performing disciplines such as multi-body dynamics, structural mechanics and high-speed hydrodynamics. Interdisciplinary subjects will be greatly emphasized such as ocean engineering mechanics, biomechanics and environmental mechanics. The key support will be focused on macro-micro mechanics of new materials and new structures, hypersonic aerodynamics as key branches of mechanics, and the development of theories and methods applied to advanced propulsion and major equipment, as well as new approaches and new technologies in experimental mechanics..

Astronomy: Astronomy is to study the formation, structures, activities, and evolution of various celestial bodies in the Universe, including subfields such as cosmology, galactic physics, stellar physics, solar physics, planetary physics, fundamental astronomy, and astronomical techniques. In the next five years, the priority areas to be supported include dark energy and dark matter, origins and evolution of galaxies and stars, violent activities of the Sun, and search for exoplanets (including life on them). More support will be focused on the developments in relatively weak subfields such as planetary physics, in traditional subfields such as astrometry, celestial mechanics, and astronomical techniques, and interdisciplinary research will be encouraged such as interplanetary space exploration.

Physics: Physics is to study the elementary structures, properties, forms, and basic interaction laws of matter, mainly including sub-disciplines on condensed matter physics, atomic and molecular physics, optical physics, acoustics, particle physics, nuclear physics, plasma physics, nuclear technology and applications, etc. The development strategy for the next five years is to provide special support to some less developed sub-disciplines including statistical physics, noise and its control, soft condensed matter, etc. ; pay attention to atomic and molecular physics, nuclear science and technology infrastructure, and other traditional disciplines; encourage studies of new concepts, new methods and new technologies which can be applied to the investigation of the matter behavior and nonlinear effects under extreme conditions, non-equilibrium physics, nuclear fuel proliferation and transmutation, complex systems, and intersections of physics with life science, medicine, energy, and environment, etc.; focus on research in areas of condensed system structures, performance, and their mutual relations, fundamentals of quantum manipulation and quantum information, ultrafast and ultra-intense laser physics and micro-nano optics, sound propagation and detection in complex media, tests of the Standard Model and new physics in particle physics, dark matter and dark energy physics, cosmology, high energy physics and nuclear physics processes in cosmic evolution, nuclear structure and properties, plasma physics and diagnostics, physics and key technologies for high-precision measurement, etc.

Chemistry: Chemistry is to study the composition, structure, property, reaction, and transformation process of matters. Its main branches include inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, chemical biology, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, polymer science, analytic chemistry, chemical engineering, applied chemistry, and environmental chemistry. In the next five years, much attention will be paid to several relatively less developed fields including radiochemistry, organic analytic chemistry, chemical thermodynamics, synthetic polymer chemistry, analytic instrument development, chemistry of combined pollution, and systematic chemical engineering. More efforts will be focused on the interdisciplinary research and combination of chemistry with physics, life sciences, material science, energy science, and environmental science. Strong supports will be given to the molecular engineering for fabrication of new materials, green and sustainable chemistry, new theories and methods for separation, detection, and imaging, chemical processes in biological systems, and the process engineering for energy reservation and wastes reduction.

Nano-science: Nano-science is to study the characteristics of substance and the interaction as well as the functional system of nanostructure assembly including nano-materials, characterization technique, nanodevice and manufacture, nanocatalysis, nanobiomedicine, and nanostandard and safety etc. In the next five years, the fundamental research will be further enhanced and promoted in relatively weak aspects, such as nanodevice, nanobiomedicine and nanostandard. Strong support will be provided for the research on synthesis and properties of nanostructures and nano-materials, high resolution characterization and nanostructure quantitative analysis techniques, exploitation and manufacture techniques of new micro-nanodevices, nanocatalysis and energy saving technology for energy and environment, biomedicine and biology safety, as well as related interdisciplinary fields.

Biology: Biology is to study the phenomena, mechanisms and principles of life. Major sub-disciplines of biology include botany, zoology, microbiology, physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, developmental biology, reproductive biology, immunology, and ecology. In the next 5 years, more support will be given for under-developed traditional areas including botany, microbiology and zootaxy. More emphases will be laid onto the interdisciplinary and rapidly growing fields, such as biophysics, bioinformatics, systems biology, synthetic biology, biomaterials and tissue engineering. Priority will be given to systematic and comprehensive researches by taking advantage of the recent advances in genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics on the phenomena, mechanisms and principles of life, integrating approaches at the levels of molecules, genes, proteins, cells, tissues, organs to individuals and populations. In particular, the high priority will be given to research with great biological significance in frontiers and Chinese characteristics as well.

Agriculture science: Agriculture science is to study the natural and economic principles of agricultural activities and development. Its main scope includes crop science, plant protection, horticultural science, plant nutrition, food science, forestry, animal husbandry, veterinary science, fishery science and other sub-disciplines. In the next five years, the strong traditional disciplines, will be enhanced such as crop science, plant protection, horticulture, animal husbandry and veterinary science, The support for rapidly developed research fields will be increased such as food science. In particular, the interdisciplinary research on bio-agriculture sciences will be intensively supported including information science, chemistry, resources & environmental sciences. The support will be emphasized on bio-omics of the economical-important traits, responses and adaptation of agricultural organisms to the changing global climates, multi-utilization of agroforestry resources. Preferential and extensive support will be given to significant researches on key issues related to the biological activities of important agricultural organisms, genetic improvement, and highly-efficient production and regulation, which should be stressed on themes of high-yield, high-efficiency, safety, and high-quality and focused on highly-efficient utilization of agricultural resources

Brain and cognitive sciences: Brain and Cognitive Sciences is to study the brain structure and its function, and the nature and regulation of cognition and intelligence, including several subdisciplines such as neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience and psychology. In the next 5 years, the priority will be given to researches on major issues like the structural and functional plasticity of brain, the physical basis for cognitive functions and behaviors, and the mental health for promoting the development in both the basic neuroscience and the mechanism and control strategy of neuropsychiatric diseases. The priority will be also provided to researches on the brain development and plasticity, the sensory mechanisms, and the neural basis for cognition and behaviors for cultivating several new emerging subdisciplines, such as the neuropsychological and computational neuroscience, as well as encouraging the interdisciplinary researches among neurobiology, informatics, material science, imaging technology and artificial intelligence.

Medical sciences: Medical sciences,which study organizational structure and physiological function of human body in its course of occurrence and development as well as the mechanism underlying disease onset, progression, regression, treatment and prevention, mainly include medical disciplines such as basic medicine, clinical medicine, preventive medicine, pharmacy, traditional Chinese medicine, medical engineering and technology etc. In the coming 5 years, weak disciplines will be nurtured such as epidemiology and endemic diseases, medical psychology, pharmacy, traditional Chinese medicine, pediatrics, maternal and child health, laboratory medicine, ultrasonic medicine, nuclear medicine, diagnostic radiology, rehabilitation medicine and forensic medicine etc. More attention will be paid to traditional disciplines such as haematology, oncology, pharmacy, Chinese materia medica, geriatrics, infection and immunity, nutrition and metabolism, respiration and circulation, digestion and endocrinology, urology and reproductive medicine, neurological and psychiatric medicine, dermatology, sports medicine, and traumatology, craniomaxillofacial science, stomatology, ophthalmology, and otorhinolaryngology etc.. encourage The new emerging crosscutting disciplines will be encouraged such as interventional medicine, biomedical engineering, nanomedicine, molecular imaging etc, and lay emphasis on translational medicine and integrated medical research.

Earth science: Earth science is to understand the origin and evolution of the planet Earth, including geography, geology, geochemistry, geophysics, space physics, atmospheric science, oceanic science, as well as the interdisciplinary researches related to these fields. In the coming 5 years, facing to the needs of resource, environment and hazard mitigation brought up by the social development, utilizing the features and privileges of the national territory, the science fund will support the innovative research in each field, and foster the development of new emerging research areas, which is to keep the world leading role for certain specific scientific fields, promote the weak yet important research fields, encourage the interaction, integration, infiltration and fusion among various disciplines, reinforce the development of the basic and crosscutting fields, support the development of subdisciplines closely related to experiment, observation, data assimilation and simulation, and strengthen the interdisciplinary research of the earth science with other disciplines.

Space science: Space science is to investigate physical, chemical and biological phenomena occurred in the solar-terrestrial space, the solar system and the universe. Space science includes mainly space physics, space astronomy, space materials, micro gravity sciences and space geodesy. In the next 5 years, the advanced survey facilities will be developed and the quality of the observatory instruments for the particles and physical field of the space environment will be improved for constructing an integrated monitoring system of both space born and ground based observations. The key support will be given to the exploration of the planets and solar system including the investigations of comparative planetary science, and the observation and investigation on solar physics, as well as the solar activities including their effects on the terrestrial system. The emphasis will be given to the investigation on the theory and method of monitoring, warning and prediction of the disaster of the space weather, and the investigation of micro gravity, space biology, and space geodesy.

Environmental science: Environmental science is aiming to study human impacts on the environment and the environmental change itself, interaction mechanisms of biological/physical/chemical processes and human activities for exploring the way to sustainable development of human society. It is an interdisciplinary field of natural, social and engineering sciences concerned with environmental pollution, ecology and environment, processes at multiple spatial/temporal scales, as well as environmental engineering and controlling. In the next five years, more emphases will be given to some prevailing disciplines including biology and biodiversity, environmental geography, environmental chemistry and environmental engineering. Some traditional disciplines will be gradually improved such as water, atmosphere and soil environment sciences. More attention will be paid to emerging disciplines such as environmental biology. More concerns will be given to social environmental sciences such as environmental economy and environmental management. Research in the following frontier fields will be encouraged and supported: climate change - impact and adaptation, conservation and utilization of biodiversity, ecosystem service and ecological economy, mechanisms of water/soil/air pollutions and regional environmental processes, urbanization and environmental quality, cleaner production and circular economy, environment and health, natural disaster - risk, prevention and reduction. The construction of data sharing mechanism and observation systems will be enhanced.

Marine science: Marine science is to study sea water and floor as well as all different processes taking place at interfaces between ocean and atmosphere, sea water and estuary and coast. It covers a wide range of disciplines, including physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, biological oceanography, marine geology and geophysics, marine environmental science, estuarine and coastal zones, ocean engineering, marine monitoring and observation technology, ocean remote sensing, coastal zone comprehensive management and so on. In next five years, some prevailing disciplines will be further enhanced including physical oceanography, biological oceanography, marine geology and geophysics, chemical oceanography. Some weak disciplines and multidisciplinary areas will be encouraged like polar oceanography, ocean engineering, and marine observation. In addition, more support will be intensified for cruise share, and marine observational equipments and facilities, and explorations into theories and methods which integrate marine sciences and technology will be placed great emphasis. The support for research on key cutting edge issues will be promoted in fields of climate, marine carbon cycle, marine ecosystem and biogeochemical cycle, land-sea interaction, and deep-seated process of sea floor.

Materials science: Material science is to study the composition, preparation, process, structures, properties, service performance of materials, as well as the relationships among these elements, including metallic materials, inorganic nonmetallic materials, organic polymer materials, and so on. In the next five years, the research on traditional disciplines will be reinforced such as ancient ceramics, textile materials, erosion and degradation of the materials; the support for the weaker disciplines will be enhanced such as basic structure materials; the interdisciplinary research between the material disciplines will be strengthened such as metallic materials, inorganic nonmetallic materials, organic polymer materials, and other science such as physics, chemistry, information science, life science, and so on; the key support will be given on optoelectronic functional materials, energy materials, biomedical materials, eco materials, high performance structural materials, basic theory of material science, the technology of fabrication and characterization, and so on; the research on materials and the technology of characterization and measurement with novel concepts, novel principles and effects will be encouraged.

Energy science: Energy Science is to study the basic law and its applications in exploration, mining, transportation, transformation, storage and utilization of energy. The research objects include both the natural widely existing fossil energy, renewable energy and new energy source, as well as the electrical energy, hydrogen energy and so on. In the next five years, the key support will be focused on certain basic researches in the area of energy saving, clean and efficient utilization of coal, low-cost and large-scale development and utilization of the renewable energy, super large-scale electricity transmission, distribution and grid safety, basic research in the field of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Both of traditional and superior disciplines will be strengthened such as the energy system thermodynamics, heat and mass transfer, combustion science, multiphase flow thermophysics, internal flow dynamics, electrical and electronics, bio-electromagnetics, renewable energy and new energy sources and so on. The research on certain basic scientific issues will be supported and concerned including the catalytic chemistry, energy chemical engineering, power electronics, electrical energy storage and power-saving and other issues. The multidisciplinary cross-studies will be focused on the energy with information science, earth science, environmental science, life science, materials science, management science.

Engineering science: Engineering science is engaged in the study of man-made structures and systems, including metallurgy and mining engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture、environment and civil engineering, hydro-science and water research、hydraulic engineering and ocean engineering,and etc. In the coming five years, emphasis will be placed on basic research on the effective and safe exploitation of deep resources, clean metallurgy theory and technology, extreme manufacturing principles and advanced manufacturing technology, the sustainable development of civil engineering, urban and rural residential environment, water conservation and high efficiency comprehensive utilization. Meanwhile, great significance will be attached to applied cutting-edge researches for developing new technologies and equipment, new devices and structures in the area of engineering science.

Information science: Information science is to study the generation, acquisition, storage, transmission, processing, display, and application of information, as well as interdependency of these operations. It mainly includes electronics and information systems, computer science and technology, automatic control science and technology, semiconductor science and information device, optics and optoelectronics and other branches. In the next five years, the researchers will be encouraged to take full advantage of the fundamental research achievements closely related to physics and material sciences as well as other relevant disciplines for developing new types of electronic devices, optical devices, and micro and nano-devices that are efficient, energy-saving, environmentally friendly, secure and reliable. Especially, the fundamental research and system integration in information acquisition and processing component, which has been traditionally weak among all information science disciplines, should be preferentially supported. The fundamental research and key technology development in intelligent sensing, next generation communication, novel computational model and system, control of complex systems, collaboration and optimization will be fostered. The applied basic research of next generation network and various developments for internet of things will be systematically supported. The interdisciplinary research will be promoted on information science with physics, chemistry, mathematics, material science, engineering, cognitive science, biology, medicine, earth science, and social sciences. .

Management science: Management science is a comprehensive and interdisciplinary science which covers natural science, engineering science and social science and aims at revealing and applying the objective laws of human organizational management activities. It mainly includes disciplines such as management science and engineering, business administration, and macro-management and policy, etc. In the next five years, weak disciplines will be stimulated such as services science, regional development management, entrepreneurship and SME management, innovation management and so on. The research in the preponderant disciplines will be encouraged such as operations and optimization, information system and management, decision-making and game theory, logistics and supply chain, agriculture and forestry economics management. The cross-discipline research will be stressed on large complex data processing and intelligence computation in management and information science, uncertainty and complex model analysis, optimization in mathematics and behavioral research in psychology. More concern will be given to the infrastructure construction of open basic database, case database, open experiment and computation platform, etc., as well as the research on the important issues of management science with Chinese characteristics.

Copyright 2007 Bureau of International Cooperation, NSFC