China’s current law on science and technology progress, which has been effective since 1993, states that institutions can “enjoy decision-making power in their conduct of research and development” and that the government should “protect their legal rights and interests against any encroachment.” It also notes that there should be sanctions for funding bodies that make deliberate attempts to falsely appraise research.

However, there is no specific statement in the law to protect scientists from having their funding withdrawn if they fail to make any breakthroughs with their research. For this reason, some scientists in China worry that this encourages researchers to fabricate results rather than report failures. Earlier this month, Chinese state media reported that 13 scientists had been blacklisted for falsifying scientific data.

According to the Xinhua news agency in China, legislators are suggesting that an amendment to the 1993 law should state: “Scientists and technicians, who have initiated research with a high risk of failure, will still have their expenses covered if they can provide evidence that they have tried their best when they failed to achieve their goals.”

Chen Nanxian, a member of the National People’s Congress standing committee in China, said that it should also be amended to encourage scientists to report all failures so that others can learn from the experience.

Xinhua reported that Bai Chunli, the vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was concerned about the “atmosphere of fear” surrounding failure in scientific field. “It’s difficult to make achievements in independent innovation if the scientific research departments and scientists don’t tolerate failures,” Chunli told the agency.

Most scientific research in China is funded by the government through bodies such as the Ministry of Science and Technology or the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and compared with the US or the UK there is less funding from the private sector.