China’s Scientific Progress Hinges on Access to Data

At Nature, Shanghai Maritime University’s Zheng Wan warns that China’s scientific progress could be hindered by government-led, profit-driven hoarding of data and censorship of overseas sources.

It is hard — and getting harder — for Chinese scientists to access high-quality domestic data. Most of the public data are held by government departments, some of which are strengthening their monopoly and making it harder for researchers to access the information. This affects researchers in the humanities and social sciences especially, but also extends to fields such as environmental science and public health, because the data involved can be politically sensitive. At conferences, I hear numerous complaints from colleagues about how hard it is to extract routine figures such as air-pollutant levels from the authorities, for example.

[…] The restrictions are not confined to information generated and held inside China. Foreign academic resources can also be technically demanding to access. Several information-management bureaus have set up digital roadblocks to filter supposedly harmful information.

My life as a working scientist in China is affected. Reliable searches of the academic literature are near impossible. […] [Source]