On 25 June 2020, the Ministry of Science and Technology officially released the Plan for the Establishment and Development of National Field Research and Observation Stations (2019-2025) (Guo Ke Ban Ji  No. 55). The Plan is the latest attempt made by China’s central government to reorganise its vast layout of research and innovation bases across the country. This Plan had already been announced by the Plan for the Optimisation and Integration of National Science, Technology and Innovation Bases (Guo Ke Fa Ji  No. 250), published in August 2017.
National Field Research and Observation Stations (hereinafter “field stations”) are important components of China’s research and innovation system. Since 1999, a total of 106 field stations have been established nation-wide in four main areas: ecosystems, special environments and atmosphere, geophysics, and materials corrosion. They have played significant contributions in collecting and processing large amounts of scientific data, which led to new discoveries and achievements. In line with the new era, national field stations must be further developed and enhanced.
The objectives outlined by the Plan are:
- Reorganise and adjust currently existing field stations, and establish a new batch of field stations. By 2025, a comprehensive network of field stations must have been established to cover China’s main regions and research areas;
- Improve the conditions for field stations to conduct research and experiments, by normalising and optimising their equipment, living as well as communication and infrastructure conditions;
- Promote the diffusion of scientific research achievements realised by national field stations;
- Establish standardised management and operation systems for field stations.
In order to achieve these objectives, the Plan outlines a structural reorganisation and adjustment framework for field stations currently existing, and for the establishment of new ones. For instance, field stations focusing on ecosystems and flagship species conservation must concentrate on pilot national parks; field stations focusing on marine and atmospheric environments must concentrate in areas where these are still absent; field stations focusing on materials corrosion must be established in line with national key infrastructural projects (e.g. Hong Kong-Macao-Zhuhai bridge), etc. Specific locations and areas are indicated by the Plan.
Relevant standards and operational/management measures for national field stations will also be formulated, with the objective of standardising and increasing their observation, research and experimental capacities. National field bases should launch experiments and demonstration of achievements in key national strategic areas, such as food security, ecological civilisation, infrastructures; these include, for instance, experiments/demonstration of ecological monitoring and rapid alert systems, prevention and control of desertification, control of soil and water loss, restoration of degraded grasslands, etc.
Finally, domestic and international cooperation and exchange mechanisms will be strengthened for national field stations. National field stations should be open platforms accessible by researchers, provided that IPR and regulations on scientific data management are respected; cooperation with other key innovation bases such as State Key Laboratories must be intensified; networks and alliances amongst field stations should be established also to jointly implement major national projects. International cooperation and exchanges should be actively explored with international renowned field stations, bases or networks (e.g. ILTER, GTOS, GEMS, FLUXNET, Atlas, GEO, GOOS, etc.) – provided that China’s relevant laws and regulations for international scientific cooperation are respected.
Plan for the Optimisation and Integration of National Science, Technology and Innovation Bases (Guo Ke Fa Ji  No. 250)