POP­U­LAR SCI­ENCE HAS A BRIGHT FU­TURE The pop­u­lar­ity of sci­ence-pop­ping or pop­u­lar sci­ence groups sug­gests Chi­nese peo­ple are be­com­ing more sci­ence-lit­er­ate, writes Zhang Zhoux­i­ang and Wang Xiaoy­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - HOLIDAY -

vo­lu­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily lead to stronger or smarter species. Some species sur­vive the com­pe­ti­tion for life be­cause they have a ad­van­tage: Low con­sump­tion of

“Our founders, in­clud­ing me, are mainly nat­u­ral sci­ence grad­u­ates who hope to do some­thing more than our own ma­jors”, said Xie Mochao, guokr.com chief con­tent of­fi­cer, with a smile, “that’s why we at first jok­ingly called our­selves ‘de­vi­a­tion­ists from nat­u­ral sci­ence’. There were two ba­sic re­quire­ments to join our found­ing team: Pro­fes­sional nat­u­ral sci­ence knowl­edge, and the pas­sion to share knowl­edge with oth­ers.”

Ac­tu­ally, quite a num­ber of se­nior ed­i­tors at guokr.com have very in­flu­en­tial per­sonal ac­counts on mi­cro blog and WeChat, too, said Sun Huimi, new me­dia direc­tor of guokr.com. One of them, with the ID “Ent” on mi­cro blog, has more than 3.3 mil­lion fol­low­ers and he of­ten dis­cusses with the main mi­cro blog ac­count of guokr.com about sci­ence of an­cient life, in which he is a doc­toral can­di­date in Cal­i­for­nia Univer­sity, Berkeley.

Guokr.com grew more quickly than an­tic­i­pated. In July 2011, guokr.com got its first round of in­vest­ment. Then the pop­u­lar sci­ence group grew into a full busi­ness group. It started the first do­mes­tic Mas­sive Open On­line Course pro­gram in 2013, and held the first do­mes­tic Spring Fes­ti­val gala on sci­ence in 2016 and one sci­ence-pop­ping ac­tiv­ity af­ter an­other in col­leges na­tion­wide.

Lo­cal Climate also re­ceived com­mer­cial ad­ver­tise­ments as its in­flu­ences grew. Yet it in­sisted on an 80-20 prin­ci­ple — keep­ing 80 per­cent of the whole story for pop­u­lar sci­ence and the rest for ad­ver­tise­ments. “We would like to make our pro­fes­sion sus­tain­able, but money should not be made at the cost of qual­ity,” said Zhu, adding that some­times they have re­jected ad­ver­tise­ment or­ders be­cause they can­not find any creative “prod­ucts” that the ad­ver­tise­ments can match.

With the pas­sage of time, nat­u­ral sci­ence has been joined by other sub­jects on the sci­ence-pop­ping plat­forms. An in­creas­ing num­ber of groups have joined the sec­tor by shar­ing knowl­edge about history, lit­er­a­ture, lin­guis­tics, even phi­los­o­phy. As Xie said, “Now, it is more proper to call the sec­tor knowl­edge-shar­ing sec­tor be­cause it cov­ers more than pop­u­lar sci­ence.”

Zhihu.com is one of the most fa­mous among them. Founded in March 2011, it pro­vides a plat­form for users to share their ex­pe­ri­ences with oth­ers. Yet, be­cause of the lack of iden­tity check, the web­site quickly be­came a plat­form for peo­ple to share their fab­ri­cated sto­ries, not true ex­pe­ri­ences.

Then came Dax­i­ang­gonghui, or Ele­phan­tia, a group that shares knowl­edge mainly about history and lit­er­a­ture. It is fa­mous for be­ing very good at com­bin­ing its ar­ti­cles with the top­i­cal is­sues of pub­lic in­ter­est.

Its founder, Huang Zhangjin, used to be a jour­nal­ist. “We have clear stan­dards for our own prod­ucts: They must con­tain am­ple knowl­edge for the reader, who can ei­ther choose to broaden his own in­sights or en­rich his spir­i­tual life”, he said. “And the prod­ucts must have good qual­ity be­cause the most creative per­sons with the rich­est imag­i­na­tion are com­pet­ing for peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.”

For ex­am­ple, on Sept 10, Teach­ers’ Day in China, Ele­phan­tia pub­lished an ar­ti­cle “Did teach­ers get enough re­spect in an­cient China?” via their WeChat pub­lic ac­count, which got over 80,000 clicks and more than 900 “likes” within hours.

Both Xie and Sun are quite con­fi­dent about the fu­ture of knowl­edge shar­ing in China, es­pe­cially about pop­u­lar sci­ence groups. “Knowl­edge is al­ways a pre­cious re­source,” Xie said. “The more we share, the more we get.”

Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangzhoux­i­ang@chi­nadaily.com.cn


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