Nobel Prize opens possibilities to China's scientists

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-6 1:25:12

Chinese scientist Tu Youyou was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine together with a Japanese and an Irish-born scientist Monday, for their efforts in combating parasitic diseases. 

Tu, 85, is dubbed as the mother of artemisinin. It's a drug that more rapidly fights malaria, and isolated from a plant employed in Chinese traditional medicine. She will receive half of the prize money, and the other two laureates will share the other half. It is an indication that Tu is the leading awardee of this year’s medicine prize. 

Tu won a Lasker Award in 2011, and has since been regarded as the Chinese scientist closest to winning a Nobel prize in the sciences. Today, it has become a reality. Our sincere congratulations and salute go to Tu. She has established a milestone in China’s advancement of modern scientific research.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Chinese government, in its campaign against malaria, had launched a State-level scientific research project. Tu and her team made pioneering contributions in extracting artemisinin, significantly advancing the work in the field. The achievement saved the lives of millions of people affected by malaria in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The good news leaves strong impressions in several ways. First, Tu was educated in the new China and had been working in China’s scientific research institutes. It has been long argued that the new China has failed to develop a true master of science. The public cast doubt on the State scientific research system. Tu’s award dispels that doubt. 

Tu is neither a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences nor Chinese Academy of Engineering. She hasn’t received any notable domestic award. Receiving the Nobel Prize shows the difference in the way China and the rest of the world recognizes accomplishment-something which we should reflect on. 

Tu made her achievement many years ago. Since the Nobel Prize often comes after scientific research stands the test of time. The delay is normal. However, it also suggests that today’s China must have fostered Nobel-level scientific research achievements in other fields. They are waiting to be verified and recognized. The Lasker Award Tu received in 2011 sparked debate in China. Since she was recognized for her work in a national scientific research project, other members have also made great contributions. Some think that the award should have been shared by the whole team. There were also different views as to who should get the most credit for developing artemisinin.

China's view of collectivism and Tu's recognition by the Nobel Prize committee shows a difference in thinking. But it's difficult to explain the differences in China’s public opinion of today. 

Notwithstanding this, the Nobel committee's recognition of Tu is great news. The Nobel Prize has truly opened possibilities to Chinese scientists.

Posted in: Editorial

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