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Russian scholar optimistic about Tang Prize

TAIPEI -- The Taiwan-backed Tang Prize will not be awarded until later this year, but a visiting Russian academic said that he is already confident it will contribute to research in sustainable development.

“I believe the Tang Prize's 'sustainable development' category has filled a vacancy left by the Nobel Prize,” said Boris Vladimirovich Gusev, President of the Moscow-based International Academy of Engineering and the Russian Academy of Engineering.

Gusev, who is familiar with the newly founded Tang Prize, said through a translator during his visit.

The Nobel Prize puts emphasis on basic science, explained the 77-year-old, such as physics and chemistry, while overlooking engineering disciplines which have a more direct effect on human beings and their surroundings.

Established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin, the Tang Prize seeks to honor top researchers in sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law. While it has been dubbed the Asian Nobel Prize, the first batch of laureates will be selected June 18 based on the originality and impact of their research, irrespective of their nationality and ethnicity.

Gusev singled out the sustainable development category as “very meaningful,” predicting that its encouragement of innovation in engineering, energy and environmental studies will help improve the quality of life worldwide.

The cross-disciplinary nature of the field will bring together academics from different fields to tackle pressing issues, he said, citing examples of harmful pesticide use and “space littering” by astronauts.

Sustainable development research will also encourage solving problems in a way that is good for the planet, he said, citing building material technology — an area in which he specializes — and the search for energy-efficient materials that are not harmful to human health, unlike polystyrene.

The challenge for the Tang Prize will be determining which is the most important of the wealth of research in “one of the most important fields for human beings over the next century,” he said.

The winners of the Tang Prize will be announced June 18, with an award ceremony taking place three months later on Sept. 18. Up to three winners in each category will share a cash prize of NT$50 million (US$1.64 million).

The biennial prize takes its name from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 ACE), a period considered the height of ancient Chinese civilization and characterized by liberal policies and robust cultural activity.

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