Asia Science Day

Research in the Fast Lane

Many countries in Asia are booming on both the economic and the scientific fronts. This is creating interesting opportunities for cooperation, including partnerships with Swiss researchers. The Asia Science Day at the University of Zurich was a chance for them to find out more.

Adrian Ritter

Reporting from Asia: Christian Schneider (Head of Science and Technology Office, South Korea), Matthias Frey (Head of Science and Technology Office, Japan), Pascal Marmier (Swissnex Shanghai), Suzanne Hraba-Renevey (Swissnex Singapore) and Balz Strasser (Swissnex India). (Image: Adrian Ritter)

Many countries in Asia are in the fast lane, both economically and scientifically. Governments in countries such as China and South Korea are investing large amounts of money in research and development. The payoff is increasing numbers of publications from their scientists and researchers, and improvements in the rankings of their universities. Asia has become firmly established as the world’s third scientific power after the United States and Europe.

At the same time, Asian scientists and researchers are increasingly networking with countries all over the world – including Switzerland. South Korea, for example, has launched a life sciences initiative with Switzerland, and in 2015 Japan will host a joint conference on healthy aging.

Cooperation is also an interesting proposition for UZH researchers, as the overview of the international network provided by the International Relations department shows: there are currently more than 80 projects under way with China, and a similar number with Japan.

Focus on China

At the first Asia Science Day held at the University of Zurich last week, heads of science & technology offices at Swiss embassies, and representatives of Swissnex in Asia joined forces with specialists from UZH and ETH to provide information on opportunities for funding such partnerships.

Support in this area revolves around the bilateral research cooperation programs run by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Switzerland currently has seven programs of this type operating with countries including Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, and India.

ETH Zurich acts as leading house in the cooperation programs with China and Japan, and UZH as associated leading house. The Sino Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation has been in existence since 2003. The program, designed to support research projects, events, and exchanges for researchers, has facilitated more than 200 projects so far.

Search for New Partners

On behalf of the SERI, ETH Zurich has looked into other Asian countries that could be interesting cooperation partners for Swiss researchers. Six countries emerged from the evaluation. Support mechanisms are already in place for Australia and New Zealand. And ETH Zurich has initiated a pilot project for partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

More than ten years of experience researching with the Chinese: UZH professor Daniel Kübler. (Image: Adrian Ritter)

Investigating Cities

At the Asia Science Day, UZH political science professor Daniel Kubler reported on a partnership with Asia going back more than ten years. He’s interested in how the world’s cities could be governed and administered in the future. With its rapidly growing megacities, China is a good place for research in this area.

Kübler works with Chinese academics, staging joint conferences in Zurich, Shanghai and Beijing, and organizing research exchanges lasting for several months at a time.

He sees cooperation with China as a real plus. So far, he says, the difficulties have had to do with bureaucratic obstacles in China and the unclear ranking of Chinese journals, especially in the social sciences. “We first have to find out how citations can be integrated into our Western way of counting.”

Interest from China

Kübler also sees room for improvement in terms of Switzerland’s funding for cooperation projects, saying that the mechanisms are not sufficiently geared to research in the social sciences: “We don’t need lab equipment. Our main expense is researchers’ pay.”

According to Kübler, the conferences in Zurich exemplify the great interest in China, both in Switzerland and the rest of the world: “When we hold a conference on Swiss politics at the UZH we attract very few international researchers. But if we organize a conference on China they’re much more interested in coming to Zurich.”

nullThe Asia Science Day took place on 21 October. In addition to this, a North America Science Daywas held at UZH on 27 October. For questions relating to the funding of research cooperation with North American countries you can consult EU GrantsAccess. null

Adrian Ritter, journalist at UZH News.

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