Membership in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (also known by the title Academician (CAS), Chinese: 中国科学院院士) is a lifelong honour given to Chinese scientists who have made significant achievements in various fields. According to Bylaws for Members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences adopted in 1992 and recently amended in 2014, it is the highest academic title in China. A formal CAS member must hold Chinese citizenship, although foreigners can be elected as foreign members of CAS. Members older than 80 are designated as "senior members", and may no longer hold leading positions in the organization.
Academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences carry an obligation to advance science and technology, to advocate and uphold scientific spirit, to develop a scientific and technological workforce, to attend member meetings and receive consultation and evaluation tasks, and to promote international exchanges and cooperation. Academicians can give suggestions and influence Chinese state policy related to science and technology.
New members are elected biennially. Before 2014 only a maximum of 60 members could be inducted each time, but this restriction has since been removed by new bylaws. The candidates are nominated by current members or academic groups, although foreign members and senior members cannot nominate new candidates. Self nomination is also not allowed.
Available candidates are approved by presidiums of academic divisions. The election is held in the form of differential secret ballots, and about 20% of the candidates are elected.
The membership system has been criticized as highly bureaucratic. According to the China Youth Daily, the work treatment of an academician is equivalent to that of a vice-ministerial level official. Additionally, academicians can receive numerous subsidies from the local governments in addition to statutory subsidies. Their opinions may carry more weight, which sometimes leads to academic monopolization.
As of September 2014, there are 738 living academicians across different divisions. 141 members constitute the Division of Mathematics and Physics, 126 in the Division of Chemistry, 136 in the Division of Life Sciences and Medicine, 122 in the Division of Earth Sciences, 86 in the Division of Information Technical Sciences, and 131 in the Division of Technological Sciences. 507 former members are deceased. 94% of the members are male, and 6% are female.