Science of science in Shanghai

In late-May 2024, RoRI was one of a handful of international organisations invited to participate in a meeting of the Pujiang Innovation Forum, on the theme of ‘the science of science in the New Era’. 

The forum was jointly hosted by the Shanghai Institute for Science of Science (SISS) and opened with the launch of the ‘Shanghai Declaration on Science of Science’, which James Wilsdon, RoRI’s Director, read aloud (in English) to the 300 or so researchers, policymakers and other experts in attendance.

James Wilsdon announcing the Shanghai Declaration on Science of Science, 30 May 2024

This was followed by two days of presentations and panels on the past, present and future of the science of science, with a rich mix of Chinese and international speakers.

The aim of the meeting was in part to inject energy and build momentum across these fields in China, and encourage a more ambitious and globally-connected agenda, at a time when metascience is moving up the policy and funding agenda in many countries. But also to look backwards, and learn from over forty years of pioneering work at the Shanghai Institute for Science of Science (SISS) and elsewhere in the Chinese system.

The Shanghai Declaration notes in its conclusion: 

Since its inception, the Science of Science has been a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and international field of study driven collaboratively by scientists and decision-makers. We call upon governments, the scientific community, academia, think tanks, industry, and all relevant stakeholders to join hands in building a community for the Science of Science, collectively promoting its rapid and robust development around the world. Tomorrow holds a brighter future for the Science of Science.

While in China, James Wilsdon also spent useful time with Professor Lin Zhang, a leading scientometrician from Wuhan University, who collaborates with RoRI on research assessment reform, as part of our AGORRA project.

James Wilsdon with Professor Li and team at the Evaluation Research Centre in the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Finally, James headed to Beijing, to spend a couple of days at the Evaluation Research Centre in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, headed by Professor Li Xiaoxuan. In recent years, Professor Li, and colleagues such as Dr Fang Zu and Dr Aruhan Bai, have published influential work at the boundaries between metascience and research evaluation — for example on curbing the influence of the “four-onlys”. 

At a time when broader geopolitical tensions can affect the breadth and depth of international connections with Chinese researchers, the trip was a powerful reminder of the value of maintaining open channels of communication and cooperation on agendas like this, where all sides have so much to gain from learning and exchange.