The Max Planck Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) are celebrating 40 years of cooperation on 12 - 14 May 2014 in Beijing and Shanghai
Highlights of the anniversary programme in Beijing include a science forum featuring short presentations and the opening of the ScienceTunnel at the China Science and Technology Museum. There will then be a conference in Shanghai on the topic of personalised medicine, staged jointly by the Max Planck Society and CAS.
The Max Planck Society is a pioneer of scientific collaboration with China. Back in the 1970s, the Society began very early to build relationships and networks in China, establishing cooperation with a long-term horizon based on mutual benefit, with the Chinese Academy of Science playing a key role from the start as the leading research organisation in China.
Strategic partnership of equals
Today, the Max Planck Society is one of CAS’s most important partners anywhere in the world. The cooperation is viewed internationally as a model of dynamic, mutually beneficial, successful partnership which goes significantly beyond scientist exchange and simple project-based cooperation: 2005 saw the establishment of the Partner Institute for Computational Biology (PICB) in Shanghai, a centre of excellence with international visibility. We have also developed new forms of cooperation, including the MPG-CAS Doctoral Student Programme, set up in 2006, as well as the Exploratory Round Table Conferences (ERTC), established in 2010, and we currently have the JUN-MA Programme for shared career development in the planning stages. “The Max Planck Society funds excellent young scientists who want to carry out research in China, integrating them into the Chinese science system,” said Peter Gruss at the plenary assembly opened by his Chinese counterpart, CAS President Bai Chunli.
The quantity of Chinese guest scientists and young scientists coming over to Germany has shown a marked and steady increase in the years since 2006, rising from 658 back then to 851 today. And the number of active partner groups – currently 12 – has remained constant since 2004. Partner groups predominantly form around Chinese scientists who return to their home countries. A total of 33 new groups have been formed with China since the partner group programme’s launch in 1999.
Young scientists make contacts
Another visible sign of cooperation is the large number of Chinese scientists at MPG institutes: more than half of the 851 Chinese guest scientists and young scientists (2013) come from CAS institutes, the other half come from top universities. The quantity of Chinese doctoral students and post docs is particularly striking – they make up some 12 percent of all foreign guest scientists.
Founded in 2005, the PICB Partner Institute – the most ambitious joint project yet between the MPG and CAS – is a flagship of cooperation with China. The institute falls legally and administratively under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Science yet displays the typical features of a Max Planck Institute in respect of its foundation and appointment procedures, its structure and its management.
During the PICB’s establishment phase, which ran between 2005 and 2012, the institute was one-third funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Two-thirds of the budget came from the CAS. Since 2012 the Max Planck Society has been responsible for funding the German share, amounting to around one million euros per year. These funds are primarily used to finance the support provided to junior scientists. Some 40 percent of group leaders and 20 of the 58 scientists currently at post doc level join the PICB from abroad.
Successful platform for discussion
Founded in 2010, the Exploratory Round Table Conferences are a new series of meetings offering scientists from the MPG and CAS a platform for the discussion of new and fast-evolving research fields with some of the world’s leading researchers. Since their inception there have been ERTCs on the topics of “Synthetic Biology” (2010), “Quantum Information Science (2011), “Space Based Research” (2012) and “Electrochemistry – revisited” (2013). The conference in May 2014 focuses on “Personalised Medicine”.
Cooperation with China was initiated on the MPG side by President Reimar Lüst, who travelled to China in April 1974 – in the Cold War era and right in the midst of China’s Cultural Revolution – with a delegation of eight Members. Now, 40 years later, China has a key role to play in the transformation of global science systems towards a diversified research landscape consisting of many regional centres of excellence. Thus the strategic partnership between MPG and CAS remains hugely significant for the future of science in both countries.
The ScienceTunnel, which is being inaugurated at the China Science and Technology Museum on 13 May, is a science exhibition targeting young people in particular. The exhibition takes them on a journey through the major issues of basic research, from the origins of the cosmos to the idiosyncrasies of the wonder that is the brain and the vision of sustainable energy supplies. Objects, illustrations, interviews, films and multimedia experiences provide an introduction to the topics and offer insights into the cutting-edge research of today.