The law, for the first time, allows scientists to report failures during the process of innovation without harming their records in future funding applications.
“The country encourages scientists and technicians to freely explore innovation and bravely shoulder risks,” reads the bill.
Scientists and technicians, who can provide evidence that they have tried their best, will be tolerated if they fail to achieve their goals in high-risk researches, says the law.
“It is known to all that failure is the mother of success.” Li Yuan, an official with the NPC Law Committee said at a press conference after the adoption. “It will help create a relaxed academic atmosphere enabling scientists and technicians to take scientific risks.”
Well, we hope that when this new law goes into effect (July 2008), that it will have some kind of positive effect on the nature of Chinese scientific and technological research. But forgive us if we remain skeptical about the notion of China becoming an innovation-oriented country. Science can be conducted somewhat independently of politics or political interference—and yet, on a more fundamental level, science is an activity subject to the constraints and strictures that society, culture, and institutions place on it. So when your country is considered one of the worst in the world regarding privacy, detain AIDS and human rights activists, and renege on promises to the people of Hong Kong to give them proper democracy by 2012, we wonder what meaning, if any, such laws have.
To argue the other side, you could say that democratic societies don’t have a monopoly on scientific/technological innovation, and well, incremental progress is better than no progress. True dat, but in these cases, whatever ‘scientific progress’ is going to be divorced from any general flourishing of human culture—intellectual or otherwise—which we’re still convinced can only happen in an open society, i.e. one where people are granted the minimal freedom to think and speak without fear.
Picture from allposters.com