A mission to get the public buzzing about science

A humanoid robot called Walker X, developed by Shenzhen-based startup UBTech Robotics, plays Chinese chess at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai in June 2021. CHINA DAILY

Chinese science communicators have been encouraged to come up with more original, creative and better ways to promote science, using everything from books to video games, drawing inspiration from Chinese culture or the latest scientific and technological achievements of Chinese scientists, experts said in Thursday.

Tuesday marked the release of a new national plan to promote science and technology, which aims to make 15 percent of the population scientifically literate by 2025.

More resources and venues for science education will be created, the scope and scale of science promotion will be expanded, the creation of original, quality science promotion works will be facilitated, talents will be nurtured, and international exchange and cooperation will be encouraged.

The plan was formulated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and the Chinese Science and Technology Association.

Li Yuki, party head of CAST’s Shaanxi province branch, said both the party and the country consider the promotion of science important, with President Xi Jinping calling it as important as scientific and technological innovation.

“The popularization of science is at the heart of scientific communication. It helps ignite scientific aspirations and promotes public scientific literacy, and plays a key role in China’s innovation culture,” Li said at the opening ceremony of the China Association of Science Authors annual meeting on Thursday.

Wang Ting, director of the China Science Promotion Research Institute, said science promotion showcases the country’s creativity and culture.

“We urgently need to create original, high-quality science promotion initiatives that embody Chinese culture and demonstrate the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he said.

Meanwhile, research institutions and the media must support scientists passionately committed to communicating their work. Science writers and communicators must also convey the beauty of nature, science and innovation to inspire people, he added.

Zhang Shuangnan, an astrophysicist and researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said science and technology are key components of modern culture and the basis of national confidence.

“When I was teaching in the United States, I realized that astronomy textbooks did not mention the contributions to the field by Chinese scientists working in China. It was a huge shock to me,” he said, referring to China’s previous lack of powerful instruments to make breakthroughs in astronomy.

Today, China has the world’s largest single-dish telescope, a space station and a variety of world-class scientific satellites, and has made discoveries that have greatly contributed to human knowledge, Zhang said. “These achievements make us proud.

Han Xiqiu, a marine researcher at the Second Institute of Oceanography under the Ministry of Natural Resources, said science communication is an important way for the public to understand, appreciate and support scientific research that may not lead to practical applications in the short term.

One example is deep-sea exploration, which is extremely difficult due to the high water pressure, the highly corrosive nature of seawater, and the need for advanced engineering. About 570 people have been in space, but only about a dozen have been to the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on the sea floor.

“Our scientific expeditions have revealed that the oceans around China contain a wealth of valuable natural resources, including gas, oil and valuable minerals,” she said.

“We need to step up scientific and technological research if we want to extract these resources. Having a community that cares and supports such an endeavor is crucial.”

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