62 selected for prestigious science academy
Fifty-three Chinese scientists and nine foreign scientists received the highest honor in the Chinese science community when they were elected as new members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The academy released the list of its newly elected members on Thursday.
Shi Yigong, professor and dean of Tsinghua University’s School of Life Sciences, was named as a CAS member as expected.
“I returned to China six years ago and I would like to express thanks to Tsinghua University and to my domestic peers for being supportive,” Shi said on Thursday.
Prior to his return to China in 2008, he was a tenured professor at Princeton University. He was elected as one of 21 foreign associates to the National Academy of Sciences in the United States in April.
“There is pressure brought about by the CAS membership. Since the membership is the top honor for Chinese scientists, we are now representing the highest academic level of China, so I keep thinking about whether there is a gap for us to stack up to the highest levels around the world,” he said.
Xie Yi, 46 and a professor of chemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China, was the youngest member elected this year.
“I am so lucky to win such a high honor at a young age. Although I have not thought much about my gender during my work, I believe my new membership will encourage more women scientists in their own research,” she said.
The average age of the 53 Chinese members in this year’s election is 54. The average age of CAS members has hovered around 53 in recent years. The average age in 2011 was 52.6 and 54.1 in 2009.
The CAS also elected nine foreign members from six countries — the United States, France, Denmark, Israel, Brazil and India.
The total number of Chinese CAS members is 750, and that of foreign CAS members is 72.
CAS elects new members every two years and no more than 60 people receive that honor. A candidate should be recommended to CAS either by the institute that employs the candidate, or by other CAS members. CAS members then assess and vote in an election.
But there has been criticism on the CAS’ election of members in recent years.
In November, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee said reforms should be made in the academician system of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
CAS President Bai Chunli said it will find a better way to make recommendations for candidates, strengthen peer reviews and filter out non-academic opinions in the election of members.
Shi Yigong said he hopes that China’s science society will set stricter requirements for people who are already elected as CAS members.
“In the past, people believed that with a title of CAS membership, it would be easier for a scientist to raise research funds. But when I was in the US, we set higher requirements for an academician than for a young scientist. So in the future, I hope domestic peers choose a young scientist’s proposal over mine if we were at the same level, and I also hope the overall evaluation system in China will be more inclined to young people, rather than academicians of the same level,” he said.
The Chinese Academy of Engineering also disclosed new memberships on Thursday. The average age of the 51 new members was 56.9.
Xu Qinan, 77 and the chief designer of the Jiaolong manned submarine, was the oldest member this time.