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National Natural Science Foundation of China

      National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) was founded in February 1986 with the approval of the State Council. It is an institution for the management of the National Natural Science Fund, aimed at promoting and financing basic research and some applied research in China.

      At present, NSFC employs 218 staff members, of whom 191 are professionals, 126 (or 66% of the total) have senior professional titles (including 45 with full professorship or equivalent), and 54 (or 28.2%) have intermediate professional titles. The average age of its staff is 43.

      Under the guidance of its Council chaired by Prof. Tang Aoqing (the first term), Prof. Zhang Cunhao (the second and third terms) and Prof. Chen Jia'er (the fourth term), and in accordance with the State guiding principles, policies and plans for the development of science and technology, NSFC has, since its founding, formulated the evaluation mechanism of "relying on experts and developing democracy to select best proposals for support in a fair and reasonable way" and the funding mechanism of "moderating appropriately the funding scope, increasing the funding intensity, enlarging the difference in terms of funding between program barckets and encouraging innovation". Through consistent efforts during the past decade, NSFC has established a series of systems to encourage innovation and to fund excellent and creative researches through fair competition on the basis of scientific and democratic principles. It has also created the categories of General Program, Key Program, Major Program, the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, a number of other types of funds as well as a whole set of integrated management regulations.

      NSFC has always enjoyed strong support from the Government and various departments concerned. Its annual budget has been dramatically increasing, a big leap from 80 million yuan RMB in 1986 to over 1,290 million yuan RMB in 2000, contributing greatly to the development of basic research in China.

      The Tenth-Five Year Plan period (2001-2006) will be a critical time for the socialist modern construction of our country. NSFC will work even harder to support basic and applied research of excellency and direct them to the national goals, with a view to making greater contributions to the prosperity of basic science and to the strategy of revitalizing China through science and education.

Main Responsibilities

     1. In accordance with the Government's guiding principles, policies and plans for the national development of science and technology, NSFC directs, coordinates and financially supports basic research and applied basic research, identifies and fosters scientific talents, promotes science and technology, and pushes ahead economic and social development in China;

     2. NSFC compiles and distributes Guide to Programs of NSFC for basic and applied basic research, receives research proposals from universities and/or institutions all over the country, prepares peer reviews and sessions of evaluation panels, and selects the proposals of higher caliber to grant;

     3. NSFC provides, at request, advisory services on major issues related to the national strategic development of basic and applied basic research in China;

     4. NSFC supports activities of national professional science foundations, and provides them with its coordination and guidance in their plans and decisions of research programs;

     5. NSFC develops cooperative relations with science foundations and relevant scientific organizations in other countries and regions, and conducts active international scientific cooperation and exchange.

Financial Sources

     The main funds of NSFC are allocated by the Government Donations from individuals and institutions at home and abroad are also accepted.


     NSFC is administrated by its Council which consists of the President, Vice Presidents and Council members. Members of the Council are all experts in science, technology or management, and they are appointed for a term of four years. 


        Chen Yiyu             Member of CAS, Professor of Hydrobiology

Vice Presidents
        Zhu Daoben        Member of CAS, Professor of Organic Chemistry
        Zhu Zuoyan         Member of CAS, Professor of Molecular Genetics
        Wang Jie             Professor of Algebra and Cryptography
        Shen Wenqing     Member of CAS, Professor of Nuclear Physics
        Sun Jiaguang        Member of CAE, Professor of Computer Science

Honorary Presidents:
     Zhang Cunhao    Member of CAS,  Professor of Physical Chemistry
     Tang Aoqing       Member of CAS,  Professor of Chemistry

Evaluation System

      NSFC has established a rigorous evaluation system to maintain fair and sound review of proposals. The evaluation system currently consists of 60 disciplinary evaluation panels with 744 experts of high level and more than 20,000 corresponding peer reviewers.

Category of Programs and Funding Scope

I. General Program

1. Project of Free Application
     Scientists from various departments, institutions and regions all over the country can freely choose research topics as specified in the Guide to Programs of NSFC and submit proposals according to stipulated procedures. The Project of Free Application is the main part of NSFC's programs, and about 60% of NSFC's fund is allocated to it. Proposals for Project of Free Application are accepted and evaluated once a year.

2. Project for Young Scientists' Fund
     The application procedure of this project is the same as that for the Project of Free Application, but the chief researchers must be under the age of 35 and have either a Ph.D. degree or a medium or higher professional title. The applicant must be capable of conducting research independently and with creative ideas, and his (her) research group must mainly consist of young scientists.

3. Project for Developing Regions
     The projects of this category are aimed at supporting scientific research in less developed regions in China, which include Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Region, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Hainan Province, Guizhou Province, Jiangxi Province and Yunnan Province as well as the Yanbian Korea Autonomous Prefecture of Jilin Province. The procedure for the application and selection of this kind of projects is the same as that for the Project of Free Application.

4. Project for New Ideas and Concepts in High Technology
     According to the National Program for High-tech Research and Development, certain percent of the national budget for high-tech research is allocated to support the exploration of new ideas and concepts in high-tech research. NSFC is responsible for accepting proposals, organizing the evaluation and exercising the management. Evaluation procedure is the same as that for the Project of Free Application.

II. Key Program

      Key Programs mainly deal with the exploration of key scientific problems occurring in the development and layout of various disciplines and at newly growing points in different disciplines, which require in-depth research and heavier funding. Applications must be submitted in accordance with the Guide to Programs of NSFC.

III. Major Program

      Major Programs focus on the research of major scientific and technological issues emerging from either science and technology themselves, or national economy and social development and may be studied jointly through interdisciplinary and inter-departmental efforts. Proposals are submitted in accordance with the Guide to Programs of NSFC.

IV. National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars

      The objective of this fund is to speed up the growth of young talented scientists, encourage Chinese scholars abroad to return for research, and foster leading trail-blazers. It is to support outstanding young scientists to carry out creative basic and applied research in natural science in China. NSFC is entrusted with the responsibility of accepting proposals, organizing the evaluation of proposals and putting its fund in effective management.

V. Special Funds

      These funds are created for the purpose of providing timely support to research projects with major scientific importance or creativity, which have special financial needs.


     National Natural Science Foundation of China
     83 Shuangqing Road, Haidian District, Beijing 100085


Sponsor:Department of International Cooperation Ministry of Science and Technoplogy PRC
Maintenance:China Science & Technology Exchange Center
Technical support:Intergrated Information System Research Center Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Science