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Academician wangyifang:current situation and future development of China’s major scientific and technological infrastructure

1、 Connotation and classification of major scientific and technological infrastructure

National major scientific and technological infrastructure, sometimes referred to as big scientific devices, refers to large-scale complex scientific research devices or systems that are planned by the state, built by high-level innovation subjects, and open to the society in order to improve the ability to explore the unknown world, discover natural laws, and realize scientific and technological change. They are national public facilities that provide long-term operation services for high-level research activities and have great international influence. According to different purposes, major scientific and technological infrastructure is generally divided into the following three categories:

The first is special facilities, which are research devices built for major scientific and technological goals in specific disciplinesSuch as the Beijing Positron Collider, the superconducting tokamak nuclear fusion experimental device, the high altitude cosmic ray observatory,”China’s celestial eye”, Wuhan National biosafety laboratory, etc. The special facilities have clear and specific scientific objectives, pursue the forefront of international basic scientific research, and the research content and scientific user groups relying on the facilities are also relatively specific and concentrated.

The second is the public experimental platform, which mainly provides a supporting platform for basic research and applied research in multidisciplinary fieldsFor example, Shanghai light source, China spallation neutron source, strong magnetic field experimental device, etc. Such devices provide experimental platforms and testing means for a large number of unspecified users in many fields, provide key support for relevant basic scientific research and applications, and pursue to meet user needs and provide comprehensive and complete services.

The third category is public welfare infrastructure, which mainly provides basic data and information services for economic construction, national security and social developmentIt belongs to non-profit and social public welfare facilities, such as China remote sensing satellite ground station, long and short wave timing system, southwest wildlife germplasm resource bank, etc., and seeks to meet the needs of the state and the public.

Major scientific and technological infrastructure is an important part of national infrastructure, but it is different from general infrastructure projects. It has distinct dual attributes of science and engineering. Its design, development and related technologies and processes are comprehensive, complex, progressiveness, and sometimes unique. Knowledge innovation and scientific achievements are fruitful, and the benefits of technology spillover and talent accumulation are very significant, Therefore, it often becomes the core element of the national innovation highland. At the same time, it is also different from the general scientific research instrument center or platform. It needs to design and develop special equipment by itself. It is large in size, large in investment, strong in capacity, complex and advanced in technology, long in life cycle, has a clear scientific goal, reflects the national will, reflects the national needs, and is a”national important tool” and”scientific and technological weapon”. It needs the national overall planning, unified layout, unified construction, overall operation and opening. Major scientific and technological infrastructure also represents the image of the country and is an important symbol of the country’s scientific and technological strength, economic strength and even soft power. In 1969, Fermilab applied for the construction of the proton main ring accelerator. Robert Wilson, the director of the laboratory, was asked in Congress about the role of building the accelerator in national defense. He replied,”doing this is not only of great significance to basic research, but also can make this country more worthy of protection”.

2、 Development trend of major international scientific and technological infrastructure

Internationally, major scientific and technological infrastructure construction originated in the United States during World War II and has a history of more than 80 years. For a long time, major developed countries and emerging economies such as Europe, America and Japan have attached great importance to the construction and development of major scientific and technological infrastructure, regarded it as the core competitiveness of their own science and technology, continued to increase investment, strengthened facility construction and strategic layout, and maintained, cultivated and developed leading advantages.

The United States has deployed a number of large-scale facilities with leading performance in the fields of high-energy physics, nuclear physics, astronomy, energy, nanotechnology, ecological environment, information technology and so on, which are mainly funded and managed by the Department of energy, the National Science Foundation and other departments. According to statistics, there are about 60, such as advanced photon sources and their upgrades (APS, which operated in 1996 and completed the upgrade in 2022) The laser gravitational wave observatory and its many upgrades (LIGO, operated in 2002 and completed in 2015), advanced seismological facilities (Sage, operated in 2014), Weber Space Telescope (JWST, launched in 2021), large integrated Sky Survey Telescope (LSST, planned to operate in 2022), deep earth neutrino experiment (dune, planned to be completed in 2026), etc., have made a series of major scientific achievements and breakthroughs in related core technologies, such as the discovery of gravitational waves, It has played an important role in scientific and technological innovation, national security and sustainable economic and social development of the United States, and consolidated its position as the world’s number one scientific and technological power.

Europe, represented by Britain, France and Germany, also has a large number of research facilities in the fields of energy, life, resources and environment, materials, space, astronomy, particle physics and nuclear physics, engineering technology and so on. According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 40 in Britain, more than 60 in Germany and nearly 60 in France. In addition, in order to integrate resources and improve overall competitiveness, EU countries have also jointly built a number of internationally leading large-scale research facilities, such as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF, which was operated in 1994, upgraded in 2015, and the new upgrade is completed this year), the Large Hadron Collider (LHC, which was operated in 2008 and is being upgraded), the very large Survey Telescope (VST, which was operated in 2011), the European free electron laser (exfel, which was operated in 2017) European spallation neutron source (ESS, planned to operate in 2025) and others have made a series of major scientific achievements such as the discovery of Higgs particles, invented www web technology, and gave birth to the Internet economy. These facilities not only maintain Europe’s leading edge in science and technology in related fields, but also promote global economic and social development, promote peace and cooperation between European countries, improve the share of the technology market, and win the initiative for Europe to occupy a high position in the global supply chain and industrial chain.

3、 Development history of major scientific and technological infrastructure construction in China

The construction of major scientific and technological infrastructure in China started in the 1960s. Over the past 60 years, it has gone through a difficult process from scratch, from small to large, from tracking and imitation to independent innovation. At present, the technical level and performance of facilities have been continuously improved, and the discipline field and regional layout have been continuously optimized, which reflects the great progress and achievements in the development of science and technology in China. The following is an introduction from four development periods.

(1) The embryonic period of the 1950s and 1960s

After the founding of new China, China promulgated the first scientific and technological development plan in December 1956 – the outline of the long-term plan for scientific and Technological Development from 1956 to 1967. Under the guidance of this plan, around the development of”two bombs and one satellite”, the state has built some research facilities, such as ignition neutron source, experimental heavy water reactor, material test reactor, particle accelerator, etc. Although these can not be regarded as”big scientific devices”, they are the seeds of major scientific and technological infrastructure. In the 1960s, China’s scientific community began to incubate basic research facilities. With the support of the State Planning Commission and other departments, it deployed and started the pre research work of high-energy accelerators, short wave timing, 2.16-meter astronomical telescopes and other devices. On this basis, the long and short wave time service station built in the 1960s can be said to be the first large scientific device in China.

(2) The growth period in the 1970s and 1980s

After the reform and opening up, the demand for science and technology has increased sharply with economic construction as the center. Comrade Deng Xiaoping put forward the strategic thought that”science and technology are productive forces” at the National Science Conference, and China has entered the”spring of science”.

In January, 1979, Comrade Xiaoping visited the United States and signed the Sino US intergovernmental agreement on science and technology cooperation with President Carter in Washington, D.C., based on which 34 cooperation protocols or memoranda in the fields of high-energy physics were signed. In December, 1983, Comrade Xiaoping personally approved the construction of the Beijing Electron Positron Collider, and the Central Secretariat decided to include it in the national key project. On October 7, 1984, the project broke ground at the Institute of high energy physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Comrade Xiaoping personally visited the site to lay the foundation for the project. On October 24, 1988, Comrade Xiaoping personally attended the completion ceremony of the collider. Attending the foundation laying and completion of a project twice shows that Comrade Xiaoping attaches great importance to and cares for major national scientific and technological infrastructure. It was also at the completion ceremony that he delivered a far-reaching and important speech:”China must develop its own high-tech and occupy a place in the world’s high-tech field in the past, today and in the future.”

The completion of the Beijing Electron Positron Collider is an important milestone in the construction of China’s major scientific and technological infrastructure. During this period, with the support of the State Development Planning Commission, China remote sensing satellite ground station, tandem accelerator, Hefei synchrotron radiation device, Dongfanghong 2 Marine Integrated Survey Ship and other facilities were successively completed, and the construction of facilities began to expand to multidisciplinary fields.

(3) Development period after 1990s

Since the 1990s, China’s economic construction has developed rapidly, and the state has put forward the development strategy of rejuvenating the country through science and education. With the support of the State Development Planning Commission, a new batch of facility projects, such as GuoShouJing telescope, superconducting tokamak nuclear fusion experimental device, and China crustal movement observation network, have been launched.

After the”Eleventh Five Year Plan”, the state took the construction of major scientific and technological infrastructure as an important measure to enhance innovation capacity, and formed a system to promote the construction according to the five-year plan. During the”Eleventh Five Year Plan” period, spallation neutron sources started construction, passed the national acceptance in 2018, and were put into operation. This is the fourth spallation neutron source in the world, filling the gap of domestic pulsed neutron source. The more well-known”Chinese heavenly eye” is also under construction during the”Eleventh Five Year Plan”. Through a number of independent innovations, the National Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has built the world’s largest single aperture (500 meters) and most sensitive radio telescope. At this stage, with the support of the national development and Reform Commission, the construction of strong magnetic field experimental devices, icing wind tunnels and other facilities has also started one after another, the level of facility construction and opening-up and sharing has been greatly improved, and the scientific research output capacity has been continuously improved. The high-level completion of Shanghai light source marks China’s entry into the world-class synchrotron radiation light source club.

(4) The rapid development period since the 18th CPC National Congress

In 2013, as the general secretary, he inspected the scientific and educational units. The first stop was the Beijing positron collider of our Institute of high energy physics. That is, during this inspection, he put forward the goal of”four pioneers” to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In September 2016, the general secretary sent a congratulatory letter for the completion and use of the”heavenly eye”, requiring high-level management and operation of this major scientific infrastructure to produce early, more and better results成果、出大成果。这不仅是对“天眼”提出的要求,也是对所有重大科技基础设施提出的要求。2021年2月,总书记还在贵阳亲切会见项目负责人和科研骨干,视频连线装置现场,亲切慰问科研人员,听取建设历程、技术创新、科研成果、国际合作等情况介绍,指出“天眼”是国之重器,实现了我国在前沿科学领域的重大原创突破。