Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Aid may pave way for science

REKINDLING WORK Scientists hope that by sharing expertise gained from the 921 Earthquake with Chinese counterparts in Sichuan, scientific exchanges can flourish

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Aid offered in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake could help to rekindle official collaboration between scientists across the Taiwan Strait, the National Science Council (NSC) said at a press conference yesterday, adding that the nation also hopes to foster an array of academic exchanges in other fields.

“A team of earth scientists is being formed for an upcoming visit to Beijing to offer aid for the Sichuan quake,” NSC Deputy Minister and spokesman Chen Cheng-hong (陳正宏) said.

Chen added that a preliminary list had been drawn up pending final discussions between the Straits Exchange Foundation and Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.

“The initiative would be a good starting point for us to make academic exchanges with China, and in the future we also hope to see exchanges in other fields as well as between staff members,” NSC Minister Lee Luo-chuan (李羅權) said.

Details of the visit will be discussed further next month when the minister of China’s National Natural Science Foundation Commission comes to Taiwan on an unofficial visit, Lee said.

Though more extensive academic exchanges are in sight, so far the council has no plans to extend the invitation to business visits, he said.

As to the pending visit, Chen said: “Because [Beijing] feels that now is not yet the time to directly survey the disaster zone, we will bring our information to Beijing instead.”

Taiwan’s relief team will mainly help China with analyzing the earthquake as well as forming future disaster relief strategies, he said.

“Our scientists will exchange satellite image reading methods for before and after the quake. We will also share with them the success of our ‘disaster evaluation system,’” Chen said.

The system is a network of seismographs throughout the nation that can send real-time earthquake alarms to the Central Weather Bureau so disaster relief teams can be immediately dispatched to the affected regions, he said.

The system was developed by the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering after the catastrophic 921 Earthquake in Taiwan in 1999, when the government realized that a speedy communication system was crucial in the face of disaster, he said.

“After the 921 Earthquake, we published many papers in international journals and can offer valuable advice to China,” he said.

“It is every earth scientist’s dream to develop a way to predict earthquakes, however a lot of work still needs to be done for us to attain that end,” Chen said.

“Though the Sichuan earthquake was an extremely unfortunate occurrence, scientists can obtain valuable data and information from it and maybe come a little closer to reaching that goal,” he said.

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