Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cross-strait scientific research hits a snag

A neurobiologist at Peking University is seeking to change more than a decade of apolitical collaboration between scientists on both sides of the Strait

Cross-strait politics entered the world of science recently after a Chinese neurobiologist insisted that Taiwanese co-authors identify their university as being located in “Taiwan, China.”

News of the spat were first reported by ScienceInsider, a blog of the Science journal, on Friday, which said that cross-strait cooperation on scientific research had accelerated in the past decade. Usually, collaborators from both sides stayed clear of politics by avoiding references to “Republic of China” and “People’s Republic of China” and simply using “Taiwan” and China” respectively, it said.

However, the growing sense of nationalism in China appears to have entered the lab, with neurobiologist Rao Yi (饒毅) of Peking University insisting that a Taiwanese team led by neurobiologist Chiang Ann-shyn (江安世, pictured) of National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Hsinchu, which collaborated with Rao’s group on research, identify the university as being located in “Taiwan, China.”

Following back-and-forth visits and “exchanges of ideas,” one of Chiang’s students assisted Rao’s research team with scientific experiments seeking to understand the role of octopamine, a biomolecule, in the brain of Drosophila, a genus of small flies commonly known as “fruit flies.”

Rao drafted a paper on the findings and included Chiang and the student as co-authors. However, references to NTHU located it in “Taiwan, China.”

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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