The State Council, China’s Cabinet, has sent an investigative team with other government agencies to look into the recent resignation of over 90 nuclear security scientists at an institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the academy said on Tuesday.
The mystery surrounding the resignation of half of the employees in that research institute became one of the most talked-about topics in China.
The team consists of officials from the State Council’s general office, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the CAS and other departments. It will head to Hefei, Anhui province, to thoroughly investigate the situation, the academy said.
The recent resignation of over 90 nuclear security scientists at the academy’s Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology has ignited public speculation on institutional bureaucracy, employee poaching and inadequate financial support for young scientific talent.
The institute recently told China Daily that the resignation was due to personal reasons and was completely voluntary. Most of them have gone to work at private firms that are investing in products related to nuclear safety technologies, it said, adding that previous media reports have blown the issue out of proportion and that the findings of the investigation would be published in due time.
CAS said in a statement on Monday that it was aware of the group resignation, and a separate investigation team led by the academy’s secretary general Wang Keqiang had arrived in Hefei on Monday. INEST is under the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Given the strategic importance and sensitivity of the institute, the investigation quickly became the most searched item on Chinese search engine Baidu on Monday. On Tuesday, Sina Weibo, China’s micro-blogging platform, recorded over 180 million reads for the hashtag on the topic.
INEST was established in September 2011 as a research facility dedicated to advanced nuclear energy and safety technology, according to its website. It also acts as an independent nuclear safety assessment agency with goals of promoting the safe and sustainable development of nuclear science and technology.
While the public is waiting for the official results of the investigation, some “insiders” said that the not-so-competitive wage and the lack of research funding could be the reasons for their departure.
With a monthly income of 10,000 Yuan ($1430 US dollar), these government employees with Ph.D. degrees get the same pay as some food deliverers. But their salaries can go up ten times if they work in the private sector.
Without research projects and the funding that comes with the project, there is no prospect for promotions or career advancements.
The timing of their resignation also made the Chinese netizens wonder if the scientists wanted to break their ties with the Chinese Communist Party before its imminent demise.