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July 26, 2017

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Tang Prize lifts Taiwan's profile: Academia Sinica chief

TAIPEI -- The Tang Prize, regarded as the "Asian Nobel Prize," is a showcase of Taiwan's ability to select major international awards and map research directions, the president of Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute, said Thursday.

"It shows that we are capable of playing a leadership role," Chi-Huey Wong, a Taiwanese and American chemist and board member of the Tang Prize Foundation said.

The Tang Prize, established by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin in December 2012, seeks to honor top researchers in four fields: sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law. The winners of the first Tang Prizes will be announced in June this year.

Winners of the award will be selected by a panel of judges convened by Academia Sinica and comprised of prominent researchers and scholars, whose names could not be disclosed due to confidentiality concerns.

Wong, who is not involved in the selection process, said he is confident that the awards will go to the best nominees given the credibility of Academia Sinica. Over two-thirds of the institution's Academicians reside in the United States and more than 80 of them are also members of the United States National Academies, and 15 are Nobel laureates, he noted.

He believes the Tang Prize will give recognition to and encourage more research in the four fields, which do not always receive enough attention in the academic world.

Sinology, for example, has been a largely ignored area, he said.

But perhaps the prize's biggest contribution is in the message it sends to the next generation.

"Young students will understand the importance of these fields and will be motivated to study related subjects," explained Wong.

Winning a Tang Prize will be a challenge, as both the originality of research and its impact on society will be considered.

"It is easier to make a discovery, but it takes time to see its impact on the society or the economy," said Wong, who is himself a recipient of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Chemistry.

Noting that the first year's recipients will have an important impact on how the award is perceived, Wong said that Academia Sinica will make its decisions carefully.

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 will share a cash prize of NT$50 million (US$1.65 million) for each category.

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

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