‘Transparency Is a Growth Industry’

The 25 May issue of Nature features Dr Joy Zhang’s commentary on the state of Chinese governance of scientific research, ‘Transparency Is a Growth Industry’. China is currently the world’s second largest investor on scientific research and is increasingly seen as an advantageous destination for scientific powers, such as the UK to forge sustained research collaborations. Drawing on her research on Chinese scientific governance in the past 12 years, Dr Zhang highlighted a welcoming shift of attitudes towards scientific communication and public engagement among Chinese scientific elites. Dr Zhang further mapped out key domestic and international factors that prompted such change but she also cautioned that a ‘coordinated structural and cultural change’ is needed within Chinese institutions for China to establish public engagement that matches its scientific ambition.

Dr Zhang was invited to write this contribution based on her current ESRC project, ‘Governing Scientific Accountability in China’, and on her 2015 publication in which she identified the ‘credibility paradox’ phenomena underlying Chinese scientific controversies. That is, as formal science communication channels are often closely tied to the vindication of development agendas, it undermines the public’s perception of the credibility of science, and promotes an erroneous  perception among scientists that they are (politically) ’unqualified’ to contribute to public outreach.

Full Nature commentary can be accessed at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v545/n7655_supp/full/545S65a.html

Full paper on the ‘Credibility Paradox’ phenomena can be accessed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595815/

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China’s central science newspaper reports on Joy Zhang’s work

On 27 March 2017 China’s official science newspaper, Science and Technology Daily, reported on Dr Joy Zhang’s ESRC workshop in Wuhan. The workshop stems from Dr Zhang’s ESRC funded project, ‘Governing Scientific Accountability in China‘.

Extensive fieldwork from the study has found that although there is good will from both scientific practitioners and civil society groups, as well as heavy investment from the Chinese government, a key hindrance for (re)building trust and accountability of science in China is a lack of public engagement skills amongst scientists. The event addresses this gap by bringing together 50 delegates (i.e. policy advisors, scientists, bioethicists, sociologists, public engagement experts and relevant civil society staff) from both China and the UK, arguably for the first time, to identify a roadmap for public engagement that is pertinent to Chinese particularities.

As an official media outlet, Science and Technology Daily is a key communicative channel of the Chinese government for its scientific strategies. The newspaper cited Dr Zhang’s vision of China’s public engagement of science at length and echoed her view that promoting a state-society collaboration in the building of risk communication and a risk responsive system is crucial for China’s global research competitiveness.

In addition, Professor Xian’en Zhang, China’s former Director General of Basic Research at the Ministry of Science and Technology, highly commended Dr Zhang’s event for it made a convincing case of how social research can contribute to the rational governance of scientific practices in China.

Read the full report (in Chinese) on the Science and Technology Daily website.

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Resources from March 25-26 workshop “Scientific Risk and Public Engagement” in Wuhan, China

Below uploaded are the speaker presentations from March 25-26, Wuhan workshop “Scientific Risk and Public Engagement”.

For more information about the workshop click here.

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Successful end of Wuhan workshop “Scientific Risk and Public Engagement”

Scientific Risk and Public Engagement, organised together with Huanzhong University of Technology and The Research Centre for Bioethics of HUST, included interdisciplinary lectures and workshops that advocated for the need of public engagement (PE) in science, with a particular focus of GM food. Over 60 scientists, academics, public engagement professionals and innovators attended the workshop over the course of two days on 25 and 26 March.

The event called for more risk governance in the field of GM food through incorporating professional PE. The first day saw sessions on the meaning of PE, showcased both Chinese and British examples of what PE can look like, and explored the perception, uncertainties as well as experience of PE among the participants. Practical comparisons between the British and the Chinese PE experiences were drawn. The second day started with a session on GM food scientist’s engagement experience, and continued to look into building and sustaining public trust and catalysing change.

The workshop ended with a formation of an interdisciplinary international consortium. The consortium will further promote knowledge of professional public engagement in science, and create a communication bridge between China and the UK to share and compare scientific engagement experience.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all speakers and participants of the event, without whom the event would not have been possible. The presentations of the Wuhan Scientific Risk and Public Engagement workshop are uploaded in the Outputs and resources section.

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Press Release-Scientific Risk and Public Engagement Workshop, Wuhan (in Chinese)

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Bernotaite Visits Chinese Partners in Wuhan

by Ausma Bernotaite

Research Officer Ausma Bernotaite recently visited Huazhong University of Science & Technology (HUST), our partners in hosting the Scientific Risk and Public Communication workshop in Wuhan this March.

Our partner for the workshop is Prof Ruipeng Lei, who is also the Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy in HUST and the Executive Director of the Center for Bioethics. Prof Lei has been active in empowering a bioethics dialogue in Mainland China as well as international exchange.

Together with Prof Lei’s team, we will invite discussion on communicating emerging science in the wake of new national guidelines on ethical governance in China. The workshop will bring together different stakeholders together to discuss how best to use new and existing GM technologies and communicate them to the public. The workshop organisers have invited policy makers, scientists, sociologists, organic market organisers and public engagement specialists.

During her stay in Wuhan, Bernotaite visited HUST’s International Academic Exchange Centre, where this workshop will take place. Given Wuhan’s rising status as a leading research city in China, it is not surprising to find that this Exchange Centre offers a range of thoughtful services and excellent facilities that help conference organisations (and they even have an amazing in-house restaurant!). We look forward to exchanging thoughts, ideas and experiences in the vibrant academic environment in HUST.

(in the featured images are Ausma Bernotaite, Research Officer for GSA (left), Prof Ruipeng Lei (middle) and Yakun Ou, Research Assistant to Prof Lei (right))

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Wuhan Workshop: Scientific Risk and Public Communication

Scientific Risk and Public Communication Workshop

25-26 March (Saturday-Sunday), 2017

Venue: International Academic Exchange Center (IAEC), Huazhong University of Science & Technology, Wuhan, China

Being a leading sponsor and beneficiary of life science research, the strategic importance of accountable governance of China’s science is well recognised by domestic and international regulators, scientific practitioners and relevant industries. Yet in contrast to China’s increasing research power, the public engagement of science remains at a nascent stage. Cases such as unsupervised GM food trials and industrial food engineering scandals have not only damaged China’s own public trust in biotechnologies, but also impaired the global reputation of transnational research.

This workshop stems from the ESRC funded project, ‘Governing Scientific Accountability in China’. Extensive fieldwork from the study has found that although there is good will from both scientific practitioners and civil society groups, as well as heavy investment from the Chinese government, a key hindrance for (re)building trust and accountability of science in China is a lack of public engagement skills amongst scientists.

The event aims to address this gap by bringing together 50 delegates (e.g. policy makers, leading scientists, bioethicists, sociologists, public engagement experts, journalists and relevant civil society staff) from both China and the UK. The workshop theme focuses primarily but not exclusively on Genetically Modification (GM) technologies. This is not only because the GM debate is currently the most high profile social-political concern in China. More importantly, as North American and European experiences have shown, the GM debate could serve as a transformative opportunity to reexamine governing rationales, promote institutional cultural change and recondition science-society and state-society relationships.

Arguably the first of its kind in China, the workshop provides a multi-stakeholder platform and enhances China’s scientific accountability to both domestic and international audiences through 1) exploring both the failures and successes of existing public engagement avenues; 2) providing capacity building on engagement skills; and 3) identifying a roadmap for future public engagement that is pertinent to Chinese particularities.

In line with our commitment to promoting good governance on the ground, we chose the venue of Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei. Wuhan offers a unique and stimulating context for this event. Historically known as ‘the Granary Under Heaven’, in the past decade, Wuhan has extended its agricultural heritage into being the national hub for GM crop research. In addition, home to an astounding 88 universities, Wuhan is also the world’s largest city in terms of college student population. It is, thus, an ideal location in which to nurture the public dialogue of science.

For more information, please contact Dr Joy Zhang (PI) y.zhang-203@kent.ac.uk or Ms Ausma Bernotaite (Research Officer) ausma.b@gmail.com

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GM Debates with Chinese Characteristics?

Dr. Joy Zhang recently contributed to the China Policy Institute Analysis (CPI: Analysis) blog at the University of Nottingham.

In this piece, Dr Zhang highlighted the similarities of public scepticism towards GM food between China and European countries. She argued that ‘to highlight the close resemblance of the origin and public views of GM debates between China and Europe is not to negate Chinese particularities…But to ascribe something as having “Chinese characteristics” may falsely exaggerate the difficulty (or impossibility) of responding to it. If one were serious about bridging gaps of opinion in the GM debate, then recognising which issues may be universal is just as important as identifying which issues are local. This is not simply true in terms of how China can “draw lessons” from the European experience, such as how to deliver better public engagement with a more sensible appreciation of public concerns. But it is also true for China, and observers of China, to have a clearer view of which aspects of the GM disputes can be addressed with more scientific facts, better policy directives or the right economic incentives, and which must be attended to through social means.’

The full article can be accessed here: https://cpianalysis.org/2016/12/19/gm-debates-with-chinese-characteristics/

https://cpianalysis.org/2016/12/19/gm-debates-with-chinese-characteristics/

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Zhang on Social Uptake of Sustainability

Speaking at the 3rd Global China Dialogue at the British Academy last Friday, Dr Joy Zhang argued that ‘sustainable sustainability’ depends not only on sound economic calculation, but also on healthy and fair social relations. There is both a temporal and a spatial dimension to sustainable development.

Drawing on her fieldwork finding on China’s food safety debate, Dr Zhang pointed out that few would dispute that how individuals interpret their ‘fair’ entitlement to resources, what values they associate with consumption preferences and how they weigh the importance of their contribution to a better society all have exponential accumulative impact on China’s sustainable future. Yet findings from ongoing Governing from Scientific Accountability in China project suggested that steering these social perceptions and mobilising collective actions require more than simple top-down instructions or nation-wide education. It demands an engaged approach that empathises with citizens’ intimate experience of environmental and social vulnerabilities.

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Research Assistant Vacancy

The School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research have an exciting opportunity for a Research Assistant to join their team to assist Dr Joy Zhang’s project “Governing Accountability in China’s Life Sciences”.

You will play a key role in writing a research report on global debates of genetically modified (GM) food and GM policy making, which will be fed into a stakeholder training workshop in China, spring 2017. You will also organise events and will also actively promote public interest for the project through various promotional activities.

Please note that while knowledge of China is preferable, candidates without either Chinese language skills or prior knowledge of China are invited to apply.

The position is offered on a part time basis (0.5FTE) for a fixed period of 8 months starting 10 January 2017.

As Research Assistant you will:

  • Assist with writing a research report.
  • Organise two key project events.
  • Actively promote public interest for the project.

To be successful in this role you will have:

  • Experience of academic writing and literature reviews.
  • The ability to write effective and concise reports.
  • Excellent organisational and project management skills.

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

The School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research is one of the largest departments of its type in the UK, and is the largest department in the Faculty of Social Science.

The School has a strong research culture; in REF 2014 research by the School was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. It was also 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality (GPA).

An impressive 94% of our research-active staff were submitted to the REF. 99% of the research submitted was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%. The School currently has over 150 staff spread across the two campuses. The post holder will benefit from being located in a vibrant and supportive research culture.

Further Information

Interviews are to be held: w/c 14 November 2016.

Please find full job description and application details on www.jobs.ac.uk

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