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
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.”
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