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The art of cultivating science personalities

By Erik Nilsson | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-17 07:52

I believe it can. And should.

China has produced many world-class scientists.

But they have yet to accrue such worldwide celebrity as communicators.

Part of the reason, arguably, is they haven't actively engaged in personality-based science popularization via mass media.

They haven't become public figures-with their own TV shows, popular social-media feeds and books. China should work to actively cultivate such icons. And it can.

To this end, China may have to purposefully foster certain scientists' images not only as individual geniuses but also as public personalities.

I recently hosted a widely viewed short documentary about Chinese scientist Huang Danian. It racked up millions of hits in the country and abroad. The video was shown throughout Beijing's subway system.

However, it was perhaps only in Huang's passing that he received such public recognition. And he was celebrated more for his dedication to his projects and students than for promoting science among the public.

Surely, China's science can speak in new ways to all of what Sagan called "the pale blue dot".

Sagan likely never envisioned that internet memes of him would be shared after his death-since the internet itself was embryonic when he passed away.

China today needs to promote its showman scientists on social media.

Then, the country's breakthroughs can enthrall the imagination of "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam"-that is, the planet we share, Earth.

And we, as a species, may share funny stickers of Chinese scientists on our phones.

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