China still struggling to find scientists to run FAST radio telescope


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China is still finding it difficult to hire the scientists necessary to run its FAST radio telescope, the largest single dish radio telescope in the world.

And why is that?

For job candidates, the major stumbling blocks often are financial incentives and research independence, researchers told the South China Morning Post. The telescope’s remote location also may give candidates pause.

George Smoot, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006, said candidates interested in working in a more developed setting might think twice about spending a lot of time in an area known for its traditional rural villages.

“Another issue is how much the Chinese Academy of Sciences will influence and direct activities there,” Smoot said. “It is an issue to people unless they have some straight link.” [emphasis mine]

It must always be remembered that nothing in China is done without the government’s approval. For western astronomers, used to having a great deal of independence, this fact makes working there somewhat unappealing.

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2 comments

  • wodun

    candidates interested in working in a more developed setting might think twice about spending a lot of time in an area known for its traditional rural villages.

    This sounds much more appealing and is more ideal for getting to know Chinese culture. What I would think twice about is how restricted access to the internet is and living in a country where you can be sent to concentration camps.

  • Edward

    I came across this article on foreign investment in the space industry. It has a line that may apply to why there aren’t so many takers:

    https://spacenews.com/op-ed-commercial-space-startups-should-be-wary-of-some-foreign-investment/

    Chinese authorities have recently forced over a million Muslims into reeducation camps. Nothing need be said about Chinese tolerance for political diversity.

    Who is eager to work in an environment in which you have to hide your political or social opinions, lest you end up in a reeducation camp?

    Tangentially, the author makes some remarks on historical spaceflight development. In the 1920s, apparently Germany had quite a bit of investment in private rocket ventures, but the depression of the following decade dried up those funds, leaving Germany’s rocket community dependent upon the NAZI government and rocketry in general in the hands of world governments:

    The resulting military control of rocketry impeded private investment in spaceflight for half a century.

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