Taipei, June 4 (CNA) The Tang Prize Selection Committee has reached a consensus on the winner or winners of the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, according to Lee Yuan-tseh, a Nobel laureate and former president of Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute.
The discussion during the selection process was "very in-depth," Lee, convener of the committee for the sustainable development category, told CNA and China Television Co. in a recent interview.
"Although there was debate, a consensus was reached in the end," he said.
An Academia Sinica source familiar with the matter said the result of the final voting showed "overwhelming support" for the winner or winners, whose names were not divulged.
Lee said the nominees come from various backgrounds. Some specialize in technical skills and others in policy development, but the judges evaluated them by their "overall contributions," he said.
The Taiwanese chemist, however, acknowledged that it is a challenge to make significant contributions in sustainable development research because it crosses many disciplines, such as science, politics, economy and sociology.
Those without a good grasp of these fields "will not be able to make a great impact," said the 77-year-old.
It is also not enough to identify a problem in the field. One must also propose a solution, said Lee, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986.
Meanwhile, Lee called attention to the damage humans have caused on Earth. Humans have polluted the world over the past 200 years, digging up fossil fuels and producing a large amount of carbon dioxide emissions, he said.
"Sustainable development is a serious issue. It is good that the Tang Prize is raising this question and bringing more attention to the issue," Lee said.
He said the prize will also give Taiwan an opportunity to examine if its sustainable development studies are moving in the right direction.
Highlighting the importance of global cooperation in tackling environmental problems such as carbon dioxide emissions, Lee said these problems "cannot be solved by science alone, nor by a single country."
Countries should share energy resources and "scientists, sociologists and economists have to find a new economic model," said Lee, who is also president of the International Council for Science, a global membership of national scientific bodies.
Lee said he has long been concerned about sustainable development issues and has devoted much of his time to the field over the past six years.
In 2012, the International Council for Science launched a 10-year international research initiative titled "Future Earth," which is developing the knowledge to respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change, he noted.
Established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin, the Tang Prize aims to supplement the Nobel Prize by honoring top researchers in four fields that it deems critical to the 21st century -- sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law.
Although sometimes dubbed the "Asian Nobel Prize," the Tang Prize selects its laureates based on the originality and impact of their research, irrespective of nationality or ethnicity.
Up to three winners in each category will share a cash prize of NT$50 million (US$1.66 million).
Similar to the Nobel Prize, nomination for the Tang Prize is by invitation only. The Tang Prize Selection Committee, convened by Academia Sinica, sends out invitations to individuals and institutions around the world that are qualified to nominate candidates.
The committee then reviews and screens the nominations and, together with an international advisory board consisting of Nobel laureates and international big names in the four fields, selects up to three finalists for each of its four categories.
It submits this list to the Board of Directors of the Tang Prize Foundation, which decides upon the prizewinners. Due to confidentiality issues, the names of the committee members and international board members cannot be disclosed.
The winners of the Tang Prize will be announced June 18, with an award ceremony taking place Sept. 18.
(By Christie Chen)