World Federation of
Science Journalists

China’s latest science magazine

April 30, 2009 posted in Sci.Journalism
Since 7th January 2009, China has a new magazine, Science News Bi-weekly, aimed at reviewing the science funding and policy scene for the benefits of its growing national community of scientists and researchers.

China already has its fair share of translated versions of foreign science magazines mainly aimed at popularizing science. What is special with Science News Bi-weekly is that it is produced in China, by Chinese science journalists and it is the first news magazine specifically targeting the scientific community. It gives priority to the coverage of government policies regarding the funding and support of scientific research. It hopes to promote communications and debates amongst scholars and researchers. “We think the most important things are to have original articles shaped for the science community's taste, which has never been tried”, says editor Jia Hepeng.

Science News Bi-weekly is a revamped version of an older magazine, launched 20 years ago. For the time being, the magazine is mainly distributed in major Chinese science hubs, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, where there are the largest numbers of universities.

Science News covers

“The magazine, says Jia Hepeng – who is also on the Board of the World Federation of Science Journalists and former China coordinator for SciDev.Net – has helped trained the first batch of professional science journalists. This is very difficult and we are sometimes warned by government's science agencies for that we have reported too much scandals or things not like propaganda.”

In its founding issue, the magazine exposed the abrupt and less transparent funding reviewing process of the 15-year-long, 690 billion-yuan (US$101 billion) National Key Science and Technology Schemes. This was followed by an investigative reporting of a problematic 100-million-yuan (US$ 14 million) nanomedicine funding program in the second issue.

Two recent issues also carried stories tracing the source of false reagents that have damaged hundreds of Chinese scientists’ researches; doubting that the “Thousand Talents Program” by providing one-million-yuan (US$ 140,000) starting fund alone could attract elite overseas researchers to come back to China; and applauding new regulations for the Einstein Chair Professorships that invite elite foreign scientists teach at the China Academy of Sciences (CAS).

While targeting the scientific community, Jia Hepeng’s team claims to have also created more readable sources for the public with stories on the genetic inheritance of breast cancer, how chicken dung could aid the degradation of crude oil, how pigpen oil-spraying can reduce greenhouse gas emission. By reaching out to the scientists and the public, Science News has engaged more and more scientists to deal with public affairs.

“But it is the news about the science community, particularly debates in the science community, the "love affairs" of some professors, and articles on science scandals, which have obtained the strongest reactions,” said the editor.

“IPR protection in China is poor,” says Jia Hepeng. “If you get things online, hours later they will be copied by other websites so that you can never sell your contents and/or sell your advertising with your content advantage. So we have performed two ways, print and paid electronic version, plus small number being free online articles.”

“We have a team of 20 persons, indicated Jia Hepeng, including three PhDs in science (soon to be four). In terms of academic level, we are the highest among all Chinese media. This is also an indication that professional scientists are beginning to participate in science journalism in China.”

The magazine is still far from commercially successful, but hopes to break even by next year. It has helped bring Chinese science journalism in the public limelight.

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