In September, 2010 I attended the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (Tianjin) as a Young Scientist. In 2011, I was selected to attend the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (Dalian) as a Young Scientist Mentor, along with six other, previous AMNC Young Scientists: Liwei Chen (China), Charles Esimone (Nigeria, unable to attend because of visa issues), Yael Hanein (Israel), Rees Kassen (Canada), Bernard Slippers (South Africa), and Warinthorn Songkasiri (Thailand).
Including the Mentors, forty-one Young Scientists from 23 countries convened in Dalian on Monday, September 12. The Young Scientist residence for the meeting was the Swish-Hotel (which almost certainly used to be the Swiss-Hotel). Our first event was a reception in the Purple Bar at the New World Hotel that evening. This informal gathering gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to our fellow Young Scientists. Following the reception, the Young Scientist Mentors gathered for dinner and a planning session.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
On Tuesday, September 13 the city of Dalian arranged for business and institute visits, including Neusoft, Dalian BeTop Multimedia, and Dalian Maritime University.
Following a bus ride to the picturesque campus of Neusoft, the Young Scientists viewed a historical/promotional movie about Neusoft and its founding in the impressive Neusoft theater. The Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Neusoft (Dr. Liu Jiren) then gave us a tour of their product museum. Neusoft creates a diverse array of innovative electronic devices, such as portable medical stations and medical scanning instruments, in addition to the software necessary for their operation. Neusoft is the largest IT solutions and services provider in China and has been named the best employer in China and in APAC (Aon Hewitt Consulting).
During the Neusoft visit, I was appointed (thanks, Joanna) the official photographer for the Young Scientists in Dalian. I took over 800 photos and movies, which were all made available to the Young Scientists. I have subtitled about 150 of these in a website slide show. Hopefully this diary/chronology will be illustrative and informative to future Young Scientists as they prepare for this unique meeting.
In a meeting area on the campus of Neusoft, the Young Scientists convened for our first collective session, the Young Scientists Community Workshop (10:30 am – 12:30 pm). The session began with some introductory remarks and formal introduction of the Young Scientist Mentors, including their anticipated roles at the meeting. View a movie of the Young Scientists Community Workshop here. The Young Scientists then divided into six groups to discuss four different topics facing the community of scientists.
1) Mobility and Migration
2) Research Integrity and Scientific Responsibility
3) Access to Information and Knowledge
4) Young Scientists in a Flat World
Each group contained a Young Scientist Mentor and he or she provided some brief instructions and appointed a discussion leader and note-taker for each group. The goals included brainstorming solutions for the problems posed and the conclusions were recapitulated to the entire cohort. Group reporters included: Krista, Dulce, Daniel, Orakanoke, Madhur, and Vivek. This break-out session was incredibly useful in that it introduced this dynamic format to the new Young Scientists and further helped us to acquaint ourselves with each another. The morning events were capped with a box lunch on the campus of Neusoft. View a movie of our lunch on the balcony here.
The Young Scientists then took our bus to BeTop Multimedia. Here we viewed some of the multimedia outputs that China is now known for. We also toured the computer lab where much of the work occurs. The lab appeared to focus on three-dimensional object modeling and consisted of over 100 workstations filled with quiet, studious employees. I suggested that the event was staged, but one employee tried to argue that I was viewing the norm.
Our next stop was Dalian Maritime University. Following an informative briefing about DMU, we visited their Exhibition Center, which showcased their excellence in Maritime studies with ship models, historical items, and a movie of their 100th anniversary celebration. We then visited three boat navigation simulators. These simulators were amazingly realistic; although they did not move, the visual effect of the panoramic screen told your brain otherwise. Although some mentioned the onset of seasickness, the simulators were certainly a highlight of the week that was recalled frequently thereafter. View a movie of a navigation simulator here. View a movie of another navigation simulator here.
Our bus tour continued to the Registration building for the WEF, followed by a scheduled welcome reception for the Young Scientists at the New World Hotel, hosted by the city of Dalian.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The next morning (Wednesday, September 14) our busses were waiting for us at 6:50 am. We arrived at the primary Expo and Convention Center to view the New Champions Village for the first time and begin the main program events of the AMNC. View a movie of our arrival at the Convention Center here. Our first event, the Young Scientist Community Breakfast, convened the Young Scientists for breakfast and a recapitulation by Madhur, Eran, and Krista of the previous day’s break-out session. At the end of the Breakfast, the Young Scientist group photo was taken.
The next morning event was a plenary session featuring WEF founder, Klaus Schwab and Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, who methodically singled out Lehman Brothers, the United States, Europe, and Japan as contributing significantly to the recent worldwide financial crisis. View a movie of Wen Jiabao's plenary lecture here.
A subset of the Young Scientists was invited to attend a session of the AMNC Innovation Summit, titled Emerging Industries, Energy, and Managing Resources (held in the WorkSpace). The invited Young Scientists were Krista, Liwei, Patience, and me and the four of us made up a minority share of the forty-five listed participants. The four topics covered Bio-Tech, Nano-Tech, and Shale-Gas, which was expanded to cover Chemicals and Energy more broadly. This was a two-round break-out session and I contributed, sequentially, to the Bio-Tech and Shale-Gas groups. Here I met several of the prominent technology-oriented participants who routinely appeared at subsequent sessions focused on innovation and technology.
Around lunchtime the Young Scientists convened at our Young Scientist Lounge for briefing. I have to say that the addition of this lounge was one of the most significant changes implemented following the 2010 AMNC. The Young Scientist Lounge was a definitive nexus for Young Scientists to convene among themselves and with those outside our group. Some of the most engaging interactions of the meeting occurred spontaneously in the Young Scientist Lounge during session breaks and rest periods.
About 10 of the Young Scientists were added at the last minute to an afternoon session called Dynamic Duo (held in Zurich). The Duo included the Technology Pioneers and the Social Entrepreneurs, so the added Young Scientists turned this into a Dynamic Trio. The session had about eight breakout session groups. Although there was minor representation of Young Scientists, the Dynamic Trio session was informative for us. Despite being the least qualified to report on the entrepreneurial brainstorming of our group, I was chosen to do so. Vivek was another Young Scientist chosen by his group to report. One point that I made was assisted by statistics noted by another group member: about 150 million people on earth have bank accounts (subsequent research suggested that this is probably about 1.4 billion); about 4 billion people on earth regularly brush their teeth; about 4 billion people on earth have consistent access to potable water; but, about 6 billion people on earth have access to a cell phone. The point is that there might be much social entrepreneurial benevolence out there, but the decisions and attitudes of vast numbers of people may not be properly aligned to willingly receive this benevolence.
In this Dynamic Trio session, the Young Scientists were usually alone in their respective groups, and the consensus feedback from them was that this overly biased the discussion toward the later stages of technology implementation—somewhat skipping the important role of scientists in fundamental idea and concept generation. At the 2010 AMNC, the Global Young Leaders and the Young Scientists enjoyed a dedicated workshop session that included all of the Young Scientists, resulting in a balanced mix. All of the mentors who experienced that session in 2010 lamented that it was not repeated this year. Personally I found that session to be one of the best, if not the best, of the 2010 AMNC. My collaboration with Global Young Leader Natalia Allen started at that session and its disappearance in 2011 greatly limited the ability of the Fourth Cohort of Young Scientists to create such collaborations.
For dinner Liwei led a group of Young Scientists to a seafood dinner, fairly close to the Expo Center. Most of the items were selected from their aquariums and served to us in 20 minutes.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The next morning (Thursday, September 15) began with a session featuring our essential IAP mentor Howard Alper and the Chinese Minister of Science and Technology, Wan Gang. I had the opportunity to ask him a question at the end of the session. My question was posed as follows:
You mentioned wind and solar energy as future pursuits for the sustainable energy mix here in China. My question is about nuclear energy. The world has about 400 operational nuclear power plants and China reported plans to add another 400 plants in the next few decades. Given the recent nuclear accident in Japan, has this number changed? Also, what fraction of energy will be nuclear in China in 20 years?
He did not provide a numerical answer to my first question. Instead he carefully assured that their future nuclear power ambitions will be viewed with added layers of safety control and deliberation. He indicated that current plant construction is in a period of abeyance as the issue of safety is further studied—in light of information learned from the nuclear accident in Japan. He stated that the long-term nuclear energy fraction is 8%, with apparently little deviation from the current fraction. He finalized his answer by saying that China is highly interested in adding nuclear fusion to the energy mix and there are expectations that this could happen in 15 years. This is where focus can be added and scientists could make a very significant contribution. I did not have the chance, but I might have replied that the planned miracle of controlled nuclear fusion might obviate the need for most other energy sectors, such as coal.
Later on Thursday, I attended a BetaZone session (Advanced Materials) that featured Yael and another BetaZone session (New Solutions/Resource Scarcity) that featured Madhur and yet a third BetaZone session (Biotechnology) that featured Marnie. I am very happy to see the programmatic improvement of including Young Scientists in these sessions. This kind of inclusion was almost absent at the 2010 AMNC. Also, it seemed to me that the inclusion of a Young Scientist on the panel of these BetaZone events significantly increased the attendance of the sessions by Young Scientists. Moreover, Young Scientists in the audience asked many more questions than last year—many great questions at that.
The lunchtime convention of Young Scientists (after 1:00 pm) allowed for a few of the Young Scientist Mentors to more fully explain goals of the meeting. One of my specific mentorship roles was to ensure that a Legacy proposal/idea was established by the Fourth Cohort of Young Scientists. I gave a summary of the previous, principal Legacy proposals.
Third Cohort: The creation of the Young Scientist Ambassador Program (YSAP) which, incidentally, I helped to guide last year—which probably explains why I became the Legacy Facilitator from among the mentors
Among other things, I then explained that the Fourth Cohort was now charged with finding their own legacy. At the 2010 AMNC, Young Scientist Mentor Greg Weiss asked me to compile various ideas from among the Young Scientists. As Greg was a principal Legacy leader in the previous year (GYA), it was important for him as a Young Scientist Mentor to defer to the new Young Scientists for the creative component of Legacy identification. (In fact, Greg later told me that the Second Cohort’s brainstorming efforts yielded concepts of the GYA and a scientist exchange program; they pursued the former.) So, I decided to ask for a volunteer to be the Legacy Compiler for the Fourth Cohort and Krista stepped forward.
At 2:00 pm the Young Scientists had an impromptu meeting with several Young Global Leaders in their Village Lounge. The Young Global Leaders were not uniformly informed of this event and consequently, we greatly outnumbered them. Groups developed around Global Young Leaders and groups changed places every five or ten minutes. Thus we were exposed to a small cross-section of the Global Young Leaders and their diverse activities. I am glad this event happened, but it lacked the critical mass that was achieved in the joint Young Scientist/Young Global Leader session from the 2010 AMNC. Importantly, in 2010 the eight or so breakout sessions were divided into groups under specific headings, such a “sustainable technology”. This resulted in an optimal matching of people with similar interests. Hopefully some specific changes will be implemented at the 2012 AMNC to better comingle the Young Scientists and Young Global Leaders.
I attended a few other sessions in the afternoon—including the Interactive Session Growth Through Science—and noted that the Young Scientist Lounge was extensively used for planned and spontaneous meetings.
The Cultural Soiree was held on Thursday evening. There were plenty of interesting drinks and food, along with amazing WEF ice sculptures and stage performances. The Soiree was held in the Plenary session hall on the second floor of the Expo Center (the one with the mirror image map of Earth on the ceiling). Thus, it had a very different feel from the 2010 AMNC event that was held at an outdoor facility that was easily described as an amalgam of China, Italy, and Disney World. Also, the indoor option apparently limited space and probably explains why we had yet another eating event without seating. Nonetheless, the Soiree gave us an additional chance to mingle and converse in a fairly relaxed environment.
Friday, September 16, 2011
On the last day of the 2010 AMNC (Friday, September 16) there was no scheduled breakfast event. My first session was called New Sustainability Champions, held in the WorkStudio. I was the only Young Scientist present and because the attendance was low, we formed four break-out groups instead of six. I chose this event because I thought that I could provide some scientific balance to a room full of highly successful business people. I was able to contribute to my group and I learned a lot from them by going through the two-stage brainstorming process. Our first deliverable was to provide five explanations why sustainable enterprises are not more commonly developed by businesses. The second round required us to develop 3 strategies (we had five) that should help to increase sustainable consciousness in the business world. I particularly like the strategy that we called “Listen, Listen, Listen”. This principle entails listening to many stakeholders—everyone from the scientists who often drive the creation of sustainable technologies, to the public who is yearning for new sustainable ideas, to your supporters, to your fiercest critics.
An interesting morning session called Scientific Solutions was held in the BetaZone. Howard was on the panel and strongly encouraged the Young Scientists to attend. He called upon Arianna to speak on her perceptions on this topic since she is one of our philosopher Young Scientists. Several other Young Scientists contributed to the session during the question/discussion period. Hopefully this growth in Young Scientist participation in the general program will continue in future Annual Meetings of the New Champions.
After Lunch I attended a demonstration session on the “Tangible Earth”. This prototype globe is a model of earth at the 1:10,000,000 scale. Via an internal projector and pressure sensitive surface, a great wealth of information is readily visualized on the spherical surface, including, weather phenomena, temperature, earthquake activity, commercial flight activity, and shipping lanes. The prototype costs about $150,000, but smaller, less expensive versions are targeted for wider dissemination. We were allowed to “spin” the globe. It does not work like an iPad or iPhone, which rely on swiping. Instead, a hand is pressed against the globe’s surface and a directional shearing force tells it which way and how fast to spin. View a movie the Tangible Earth presentation here.
Later in the afternoon, several Young Scientists met with Nature Editor Philip Campbell, who also works for the WEF and helps with development of new sessions and meeting programs. Several good ideas were given for new topics and session formats to be used in future meetings. I posed a suggestion that the Young Scientists should be represented at the winter Davos meeting and the Regional meetings as well as the summer Davos (AMNC). At the regional meetings, the programs could then have greater specificity based on issues of geographical interest and Young Scientists sharing those regional interests could be invited.
I attended the Closing Plenary Session, which was a panel titled “Test of Technology”. This was moderated by the masterful Nik Gowing and was followed by closing remarks and the Farewell Reception on the first floor of the Expo Convention center.
The Young Scientists interested in development of the two legacy proposals met in the hotel café at 8:00 pm for our final work as a group. We seemed to accomplish a lot as our white papers were essentially completed. It is always good to have a final legacy meeting such as this. The more work that can be completed at the meeting as a group, the greater are the chances for success. Two consensus Legacy Proposals were developed: one that seeks to programmatically connect Young Scientists with Global Young Leaders at future WEF meetings; and one that aims to develop an online Informational Network of Young Scientists.