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Science elevator pitches in Beijing


By James Dacey in Beijing

Could you provide a short entertaining presentation of your research to a non-specialist audience, leaving them feeling both enlightened and inspired? How about trying to do it in a non-native tongue? That’s what several Chinese researchers did on Wednesday evening at the Science Slam event at the European Delegation headquarters in Beijing. The event was part of a day-long communications training workshop aimed at researchers who want to communicate their research to the general public and improve their ability to apply for research grants.

I attended the European Research Day China during the daytime and recorded a couple of researchers practising out their pitches ahead of the evening’s event. In the first video, above, you hear from Wenwen Zuo of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She tells a captivated audience why she is interested in learning about the black holes that lie at the centre of the largest galaxies in the universe.

In this second presentation, below, you hear from biochemist Jia-Hui Li of East China Normal University (ECNU). Li uses the analogy of a lock and key mechanism to explain the principle of how to detect cancers early on in their development using so-called “ligand-receptor interactions”.

I enjoyed the workshop, which was attended by Chinese and ex-pat researchers. The enthusiasm of Zuo and Li is perhaps a sign that early-career researchers in China are starting to place value in science outreach for its own sake. That is the hope of complex systems researcher Lei-Han Tang whom I met later in the day at the Beijing Computational Science Research Center (CSRC).

Tang returned to China recently on the 1000 Talents Program, the state scheme to attract talented academics from overseas to work in China. He believes that for Chinese research to become truly world class it needs to develop a culture among scientists that focuses on more than just publishing in academic journals. This “publish or perish” attitude is true worldwide, but seems to be particularly prevalent in China.

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