The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is an institution tasked with the administration of the National Natural Science Fund from the Central Government. Since its establishment in 1986, the NSFC has comprehensively implemented a rigorous and objective merit-review system to fulfill its mission of supporting basic research and promoting socioeconomic development (1).
Among the diverse project types maintained by the NSFC, the Major Program serves the primary needs of the scientific frontier, national economy, and social development initiatives. By conducting multidisciplinary research, it plays both a supporting and guiding role in improving the capability of domestic innovation in China’s core research efforts.
Due to the importance of the Major Program, it has drawn broad concern and focus from many researchers in the field of health science. Therefore, we conducted this study to analyze the Major Program in the field of health science funded by NSFC between the years 2010 and 2018.
The information and data of the Major Program were collected from editions of guide books (2) and annual reports (3) released between the years 2010 and 2018 via the NSFC official website. Further analysis was made to discover any regularities and tendencies.
From 2010 to 2018, a total of 21 programs in the field of health science were funded by the NSFC Major Program, and eventually 87 projects were approved, with the amount totaling 32.8 million CNY. The detailed information is shown in Table 1 and Figure 1.
Applicants’ host institutions
The applicants funded were from 43 host institutions. The top ten institutions ranked are shown in Figure 2.
Regional distribution of applicants funded
The applicants funded were from 12 provinces and municipalities which are shown in Figure 3.
Gender of applicants funded
Of the applicants funded, 70 were males and 17 were females (Figure 4).
Age of applicants funded
The ages of applicants funded were between 35 and 77 years, with the age group between 46 and 60 being the most common (Figure 4).
Professional qualifications of applicants
Of all the applicants funded, 86 had senior title (including professor, researcher, and chief physician) while only 1 had deputy senior title (associate chief physician).
Collaboration of institutions
Collaboration was commonly found in the applications. Of all the applicants funded, 64 cases had cooperation between 2 institutions, and 6 cases had cooperation between 3 institutions (Figure 5).
Several prominent characteristics of the Major Programs could be gleaned based on our above analysis which may be beneficial for the applicants in the future.
Major Programs cover nearly all health research areas. Among them, blood system, oncology, medical imaging, biomedical engineering, medical pathogenic micro-organisms and infection account for the majority part of the funding.
Universities and institutes of Chinese academy of sciences show great strength on the ability of medical scientific research. And they successfully dominate the number of the NSFC Major Program projects funded. Geographically, the host institutions funded appear to be concentrated in Beijing and Shanghai. At the same time, collaboration of institutions seems to be advantageous.
The principle investigators of Major Programs are mostly with the age of 50, although the number of PIs in their 40s are growing.
Generally, the eligible applicants should have excellent academic accomplishments, with considerable influence and team ability. Meanwhile, applicants should follow the guidelines when writing proposals, focus on key scientific issues with strategic and fundamental significance, concentrate on interdisciplinary scientific targets, and pay attention to coordination and links with other national scientific programs. The research team should have an adequately prepared pilot study, sufficient supporting conditions, innovative ability, and a number of high-level academic leaders.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.
- Zhu Z. Basic research must come first. An interview with Zuoyan Zhu, Vice President of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Interviewed by Holger Breithaupt and Caroline Hadley. EMBO Rep 2004;5:442-5. [PubMed]
- NSFC Annual Guidance Books in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. Available online: http://www.nsfc.gov.cn/english/site_1/funding/E1/2018/07-09/112.html
- NSFC Annual Report in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. Available online: http://www.nsfc.gov.cn/english/site_1/report/C1/2018/10-18/130.html