As Tang Prize Week Ends Laureates Speak and Inspire Throughout Taiwan

  • James E. Hansen, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Sustainable Development
  • Veerabhadran Ramanathan, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Sustainable Development
  • Tony Hunter, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science
  • Brian J. Druker, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science
  • Stephen Owen, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Sinology
  • Yoshinobu Shiba, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Sinology
  • Joseph Raz, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Rule of Law
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Accessible exchange of ideas is one of the hallmarks of Tang Prize Week. The 2018 Tang Prize Masters Forums, a series of roundtable talks among laureates and international experts, have been held in locations throughout Taiwan. Such forums were created as platforms for the laureates to report on their recent research; and, perhaps just as importantly, as opportunities to give advice and predictions to the younger generation in each field.


Two forums were held for the laureates in Sustainable Development—James E. Hansen at National Central University on September 25 and Veerabhadran Ramanathan at National Chung Hsing University on September 28.


Hansen spoke on the topic “Global Energy, Climate & Health: Making Your World” to a packed house. His advice to the audience was that the youth needs to stand up and ensure that their rights are protected. If they are to be successful, they need to understand the problem clearly and maintain a scientific methodology. 


Ramanathan delivered his talk on the topic “Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions.” He said, thinking retrospectively, that if he had been asked 20 years ago how to do one’s part to solve climate change, he would have said to begin from the reduction of carbon in one’s own life. Today, however, it is too late to do so. In the next ten years, the world will encounter a serious threat from climate. Ramanathan believes that education is one way to bring the seriousness of the issues to the attention of the youth and help them along the path to finding solutions. He also sees the use of social media in spreading factual science on climate change.


Two of the three recipients in Biopharmaceutical Science (John Mendelsohn was unable to attend) participated in forums for 2018; Brian J. Druker at China Medical University on September 25 and Tony Hunter at National Taiwan University on September 26.


Druker presented his lecture, “Imatinib as a Paradigm of Targeted Cancer Therapies,” to an attentive audience. One very eager eleven-year-old boy asked a question after the presentation, “Why does Imatinib not have any effect on the growth of stem cells?” a question that both stunned and delighted the audience. Druker, after answering the child’s question, encouraged him to continue down this road of curiosity, because it may just lead to doing serious research.


The topic of Hunter’s speech, “Fifty Years in Research and Still Excited by a New Result,” explained the scientist’s enthusiasm throughout his long career. His advice to his researchers has been to explore research topics in other fields: they could explore one “safe” topic and indulge a bit in one “risky” or “bold” topic. That way they could maintain curiosity and practice making important connections between fields that may possibly result in new discoveries.


In the field of Sinology, recipients Stephen Owen and Yoshinobu Shiba delivered talks at National Taiwan Normal University and National Cheng Kung University on September 26 and 27.


In “Reading: Beginning With Small Things,” Owen tackled the problems of reading and translation. He advised understanding all the details of a text—even the smallest of details. Only then can the translator allow the reader to have the same possibility of understanding the plurality of meaning that the author has written into the text.


The only laureate to speak this year in Tainan, Shiba spoke on, appropriately, the topic of Tainan itself—‘Jing’ in Tainan Prefecture Temples and the Social Organization of the Chinese. Shiba talked of the urbanization of the city, stressing that Tainan, the capital in the early days of Taiwan, has retained much of its buildings and artifacts for archaeologists, ethnographers, and historians to investigate. In fact, it is a great case for the study of urbanization. Shiba himself, as the topic itself suggests, has done just that, and has a deep understanding of this old capital city.


In Rule of Law, the sole recipient delivered a lecture and engaged in discussion on “The Law’s Own Virtue” on September 25 at National Chengchi University.


On the question of transitional justice, Raz made it emphatically clear that it is not just a question of rule of law—in fact, it may be even more broad of scope than rule of law. Transitional justice is not “attained” just due to the presence of rule of law. Rather, it demands a new perspective. Those involved try to gain the consensus of society between the new rule and the old, and relate with each other peaceably.


These seven sessions across Taiwan were rare opportunities for the public to gain insights into the topics of our times, the ideas that will change society, both in Taiwan and throughout the world.