President visits China

12 September 2013

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, is making his first visit to mainland China.

His visit includes a major speech at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and meetings with top Chinese scientists.

The UK is China's largest scientific collaborator in Europe. Chinese scientists co-author more scientific papers with UK scientists than any other countries in the world except for the US and Japan.

During his visit, Sir Paul Nurse is making the case for greater collaboration between Chinese and UK scientists

Professor Guangzhao Zhou, Honorary President of the China Association for Science and Technology, was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 2012.

Good science

In his keynote speech, Sir Paul Nurse highlighted the values of good science and importance of supporting high quality scientific research.

Science should be based on reproducible observation and experiment. Good scientists are inherently sceptical and willing to challenge orthodoxy.

Funding decisions should be guided by the effectiveness of the researchers. Research funding bodies should focus their attention on high level priorities and should avoid being too prescriptive. 

Climate change

Climate change is the first of two global challenges detailed in Sir Paul Nurse’s speech.

To address climate change, expert scientists in China and the UK must:


  • support the highest quality research to understand climate better
  • pursue research and innovation that will lead to applications that can generate energy with less greenhouse gas production and that can ameliorate the effects of climate change
  • engage with the public and politicians about issues around climate change so the best scientific advice can be given, not tainted by economic considerations or ideological opinion

Sir Paul Nurse encouraged closer working between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in pursuit of the agenda of climate science.

Food security

Food security is the second global challenge Sir Paul Nurse covered in his speech.

Agricultural productivity needs to increase to feed the world’s growing population whilst limiting environmental damage.

Dealing with this problem requires an integrated multi-faceted approach using new crop varieties and hybrids, farming approaches and technologies and genetically modified foods.

China is leading the way with integrated approaches to agricultural productivity, having increased cereal production by 32% between 2003-2011, which is double the world average. 

The future

The UK and China should work together to advance science, finding and supporting new ways for closer working between Chinese and UK scientists.

The governments of both countries need to be persuaded to increase their funding for closer working. There needs to be more young Chinese researchers working in the UK and more young UK researchers working in China.

Both academic and industrial collaborations need to be promoted.