Several academics have called for China to relax cyber supervision of academic websites at a recent conference, saying that the country's strict supervision of the Internet has been detrimental to their research.
"From foreign websites, we could learn what technologically developed countries are doing recently and learn about the application of their research results," said an academic at a May conference attended by members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), as quoted in the China Science Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the CAS.
"Therefore, is it possible that scientific researchers could have 'special convenience' in this regard?" the academician asked.
"I think it is very difficult to achieve world-leading results or to be a front-runner in global scientific research without any knowledge of [other countries' achievements] and without comparison," another researcher said.
Such hopes were echoed by several other academics reached by the Global Times.
"The inability to access academic websites such as Google Scholar has caused us great inconvenience, and sometimes we have to use Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which are unstable," a CAS member told the Global Times on condition of anonymity. "We hope the government can relax supervision for academic purposes."
Fang Binxing, a CAE academician known as the "father" of the Great Firewall, told the Global Times that China should not regulate the Internet so strictly as to "give up eating for fear of choking." For example, Fang said it would be technically feasible to filter out "harmful information" from Google Scholar without blocking the whole service.
Scholars also called for more convenient domestic Internet supervision policies, such as the relaxation of registration rules for Internet content providers, as some of their professional websites have been shut down due to registration delays.
"We were unprepared to see our domain - which we have used for academic exchanges for five years - shut down just as we were ready to submit our research paper," a research fellow at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China wrote on his blog, as quoted by the China Science Daily. He said that his paper was rejected because the reviewer could not log into a database.
But another CAE academician, the chief engineer of a national defense company, told the Global Times that proper supervision is necessary to protect China's core technologies and information related to state secrets.
"[Internet freedom] is not freedom without any boundary, and academic needs should not compromise national security," said the academician, who asked to remain unnamed.
Wen Ku, director of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's Communication Development Department, reportedly said in January that "Internet development in China should be in line with the law, and some improper information should be regulated."