By Professor Ying-Wei Yang, Jilin University.
In your opinion, which scientific questions will set the trends in the coming decade, and which science problems would you like to tackle?
Science knows no boundaries. But nowadays, in my opinion, there are too many obstacles set by certain politicians and conservative scientists. The biggest scientific question we need to address is how to embrace a competitive but entirely open research environment where international, interdisciplinary, team-oriented, and technology-intensive modern researches can be collaboratively conducted without any holdback or artificially-set bar.
How do you experience diverse leadership, diversity in your lab, publication and peer-review, promotion and career progression, in your host country? What practical steps can be used to encourage inclusive, equitable research labs, departments and practices?
China is a non-immigrant and developing country with a very large population. In terms of the diversity of leadership and diversity, it is a different story for us to cover different races since we have very limited numbers of non-Chinese people living or studying in China. However, we have many women professors and students and also an appreciable number of foreign professors in our university. Particularly in my lab, 60% of graduate students are female and they love doing research in the field of organic chemistry and supramolecular chemistry. Meanwhile, we have a female associate professor, a French male associate professor, and an Indian postdoctoral scholar working in my lab.
In my experience, publication is always not easy for early-career researchers, but peer-review is relatively a fair process and I do appreciate that. In terms of promotion and career progression in China, I would say the overall environment is fair, and young researchers even have much better chances to get higher salary and better funding support since certain programs and funding/award opportunities have age limitations that prefer young scientists under 45 or sometimes 35.
The main impediment for creating inclusive, equitable research labs, departments and practices is that China is still a developing country and is always not that attractive to foreign researchers and students especially from western countries. Meanwhile, the best Chinese candidates for graduate studies and postdoctoral researchers choose to go to those developed western countries, the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Japan, etc., instead of staying in China.
What is your message to the next generation of scientists, and what are your tips for their success?
For the next generation of scientists, you should always enjoy the freedom of doing science, but do not be afraid to tackle big problems and never let failure stop your steps.
Do whatever you'd really love to do and stick with it with passion. Research is a long journey, maybe lifetime long for many scientists, and in order to stay motivated, you should take small steps, work smarter, and reward yourself whenever you meet a small milestone during this journey. One important tip: actively build your network, collaborate wisely, and don't hold back to approach senior researchers or even well-known scientific leaders as they are often very supportive and encouraging.