Sun, Feb 09, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Outbreak: Scientists ask US event to separate Taiwan, China

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Oceanographic Society yesterday asked the US-based Ocean Sciences Meeting to distinguish Taiwan from China, after the event organizer advised speakers from China and Taiwan to “discuss alternative arrangements” amid an outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

The event, which is to run from Sunday next week to Feb. 21 at the San Diego Convention Center in California, is cosponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) — an international nonprofit scientific association with nearly 60,000 members from 137 nations.

The meeting’s Web site posted an announcement describing its response to the outbreak.

“We have contacted conveners and speakers who are from designated countries, currently China and Taiwan, to discuss alternative arrangements,” it said. “We suggest visiting the World Health Organization’s Web site, which is constantly being updated with the latest information and tips.”

Taiwan’s confirmed cases of the disease have been listed as part of China’s in the WHO’s situation reports.

Upon seeing the message, the society wrote to the AGU, suggesting that it consider excluding Taiwan from its announcement, society chairman Jan Sen (詹森) wrote on Facebook yesterday.

As of Friday, Taiwan had only confirmed 16 coronavirus cases, which were all linked to travelers returning from overseas, and the disease is well under control in Taiwan, he wrote.

More than 20 academics from National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Ocean University and National Sun Yat-sen University are expected to attend the meeting, Jan told the Taipei Times.

As the organizer has not banned Taiwanese attendees, they would stick to their original plan to give presentations at the meeting, he said.

They also aim to discuss collaboration with members of the US National Science Foundation and the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research, he added.

Some long-term collaborators at the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution also wrote to the organizer to protest the error, but have only received automated responses, Jan said.

Such a misunderstanding had not been encountered when dealing with US events, although it is a common practice of UN-affiliated events and documents to block Taiwan, he said.

LATE CHANGE

After receiving complaints from Taiwanese and US scientists, the AGU on Sunday removed Taiwan from its Web site announcement, advising that only conveners and speakers coming from China should discuss alternative arrangements.

This story has been updated since it was first published.

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