Mission to get public buzzing for science


China's science communicators have been encouraged to come up with more original, creative and better quality ways to popularize science, using everything from books to video games, by drawing inspiration from Chinese culture or recent scientific and technological achievements by Chinese scientists, experts said on Thursday.

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

More science education resources and venues will be created, the scope and scale of science popularization will be expanded, the creation of original, quality science popularization works facilitated, talent nurtured and international exchange and cooperation promoted.

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

Li Yuqi, Party chief of the Shaanxi province branch of CAST, said that both the Party and the country consider science popularization important, with President Xi Jinping calling it as important as scientific and technological innovation.

"Science popularization is the basis of science communication. It helps kindle scientific aspirations and promotes public scientific literacy, and plays a key role in China's culture of innovation," Li said during the opening ceremony of the annual meeting of the China Science Writers Association on Thursday.

Wang Ting, director of the China Research Institute for Science Popularization, said that science popularization demonstrates a country's creativity and culture.

"We urgently need to create original, high-quality science popularization initiatives that embody Chinese culture and showcase the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," he said.

Meanwhile, research institutions and the media should support scientists passionate about communicating their work. Science writers and communicators should 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 at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that 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 the astronomy textbooks made no mention of contributions to the field by Chinese scientists working in China. This was a huge shock to me," he said, referring to China's previous lack of powerful instruments for making 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 added to human knowledge, Zhang said. "These achievements make us proud." 

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

One example is deep sea exploration, which is notoriously difficult due to the intense water pressure, the highly corrosive property of seawater, and the need for advanced engineering. Some 570 people have been into space, but only around a dozen have been to Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on the seabed. 

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

"We need to step up scientific and technological research if we wish to extract these resources. Having a society that is interested and supportive of such an undertaking is crucial."

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