Monday, September 12, 2022

Chinese Community Party official assesses, critiques Chinese science

Via Twitter, an interesting comment about Chinese science from a Chinese Communist Party official (full transcription here): 
Zhang doesn't only blame the US. He outlines how Chinese S&T is falling short:
  • Few original breakthroughs;
  • Lack of corporate leadership in innovation;
  • Disconnect between industry and academia;
  • Persistent credentialism and exclusivity culture;
  • Overburdened workers.
It would be really interesting to understand exactly what Zhang meant, but I suspect this is buried in about seven layers of nuance that you need a lifetime in Chinese academia to understand who he was Really Criticizing. 

I wish I knew more about the various histories of scientific innovation within nation-states, and how they grow and thrive. There must be some kind of curve/growth (one wonders what a similar critique of US chemistry academia would sound like in 1925) and what limitations the communist system places on Chinese academia (and also what baseline innovation would look like without Communist intervention in 1948?)*

*I mean, you almost have a perfect natural experiment between the People's Republic and Taiwan in terms of academic productivity....

1 comment:

  1. I'll just quote the part of how Chinese SnT is falling short part:

    ...we lack major theoretical breakthroughs and leading original achievements...
    For original achievements Zhao really meant "detrimental discovery that establishes a field" type, which is very much expected given China was still starving here and there just 40 years ago while neighbors were already developing semiconductors. These kind of breakthroughs won't just suddenly come up in a day.

    ...Corporations have not solidified their leadership positions in the innovation ecosystem...
    its weird how Zhang is commenting on there is a lack of coordination and development among all parts and then suddenly towards corporate is not leading innovations as much, but in pharmaceutical fields I'm worried about, most big companies transitioned into buying out startup company/academia instead of as heavily invested in research before. I see it more or less a cost effectiveness problem that happens everywhere, and of course will be as prevalent if not more to China, again given how poor china was some years ago and is more keen on cost-effective methods to research.

    ...there is a disconnect between industry, academia and research...
    This is a huge problem everywhere that research somehow does not translate to industry, and worse in developing countries as they lack the engineers on top of the scientists in translating already "sketchy" academia work that may or may not be easily reproducible.

    ...credentialism and exclusivity persist and we have a long way to go to reduce burdens for workers in science and technology...
    this is the major problem, if any that can be said to be tied to CCP. To give some context, professorship, promotions and grants are awarded by more on quantitative measures than qualitative; it's more about how many papers published, how high profile are the journals, how many conferences attended, how many citations, instead of the actual quality of the work; while some may argue the quality of work is reflected by these quantitative measurements, its a giant burden and forces researchers to grab the low hanging fruits than working on difficult breakthroughs, and it encourages repetitive research (more or less different compositions of MOF for example) that won't really go anywhere other than being a paper somewhere.


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