Interview series: Tang Prize can match the Nobel Prize over time: academician

2014/10/16 09:40:00
Academia Sinica Vice President Wang Fan-sen

Academia Sinica Vice President Wang Fan-sen

Taipei, Oct. 15 (CNA) The Tang Prize, a Taiwanese-founded international award, will "no doubt" eventually reach the status of the Nobel Prize because of its rigorous selection process and how it complements the Nobel Prize, a renowned scholar said recently.

"As long as it continues, I believe the Tang Prize will become the most important award in its respective fields in the future," said Academia Sinica Vice President Wang Fan-sen in an interview with CNA earlier this month, citing the Tang Prize's unique awards.

The four Tang Prize categories -- sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and rule of law -- are not covered by the Nobel Prize and actually complement the more established Nobel awards, Wang said.

He explained that the Tang Prize in biopharmaceutical science, for example, was different from the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in that the former emphasizes the pharmaceutical application of research and its direct impact on the improvement of human health.

Wang said the Nobel Prize was established during a "Euro-centric" and "science-centric" age, and issues related to Chinese history and civilization, for example, were not among its major concerns.

For Taiwan, Wang believes the Tang Prize "opens a door to the world" and encourages Taiwanese, who he said have long focused too narrowly on domestic issues, to take notice of important global ones.

"We are rejected by international organizations, but we also reject the world," he said.

The suggestions given to Taiwan by Tang laureates were also worth noting, Wang said, citing Yu Ying-shih, the laureate in Sinology, who cautioned Taiwan not to carelessly "throw away" its democracy.

The academician gave high marks for the first Tang Prize, but he recommended that the award's selection committee continue to expand and revise its database of individuals and institutions qualified to nominate candidates.

He also hoped more Taiwanese academics and institutions will nominate candidates for the next Tang Prize as they were "not enthusiastic enough" this time.

The reason for that, Wang suggested, is that many academic awards in Taiwan are organized by the government, and local academics are probably not used to nominating people for awards.

The Tang Prize Selection Committee, chaired by Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, sent out thousands of invitations to qualified individuals and institutions around the world, asking them to nominate candidates in the four prize categories.

Similar to the Nobel Prize, nominations for the Tang Prize are by invitation only. Winners of the first Tang Prize were selected by panels of judges convened by Academia Sinica, Taiwan's leading research institution, that comprised prominent researchers and scholars from Taiwan and abroad, including Nobel laureates.

The biennial Tang Prize, which comes with a cash prize of NT$40 million (US$1.32 million) and a research grant of NT$10 million, recognizes academic, scientific and social advances and contributions in the four categories.

It was established by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin in 2012.

(By Chen Chih-chung and Christie Chen)

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