[BEIJING] China is hoping to raise public awareness of science through its first touring not-for-profit 'science popularisation' foundation.
The Guanghua Science Popularization Foundation (GSPEF) is managed by China's Guanghua Science and Technology Foundation (GHF), a community foundation supervised by the Central Communist Youth League.
The GSPEF will select science and technology topics closely related to daily life — such as clean energy, food safety and health management — and take lectures and seminars about them on tour to schools and community centres.
Established in 1993, GHF focuses on science and technology education for people aged 30 and under.
"We set up the science popularisation foundation, because the public's understanding of science is not sufficient in China," said Wang Bo, an officer with GHF.
The 'science education tour' will begin in May this year, in large cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, Gao Junming, general secretary of the GSPEF, told SciDev.Net.
The foundation will largely rely upon external donors for funding. The first project, about genetics and health, is scheduled to run for ten years. It will be largely funded by United Gene, a Shanghai-based biopharmaceutical company that will provide three million Chinese yuan (US$440,000).
"Most donations target a related project and the foundation will evaluate the project's science independently," said Gao.
The foundation selects a topic proposed by GHF members and scientists and then finds a company to back the idea. Gao said the next project will be on new energy, and the foundation hopes to find a company to support it.
"As a nongovernmental organisation, we are evaluated by the public directly, so we are more [responsive] than official organisations like China Association for Science and Technology," Gao said, adding that professional scientists and young volunteers will be invited to participate in the work of the GSPEF.
Li Daguang, director of the Science Communication Centre at the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, commended the nongovernmental sector's first step towards science popularisation. But he said that, in general, nongovernmental work will not be enough to increase the public's science understanding.
"The most efficient way to improve science understanding is through formal education," he said, adding that the foundation's work can only complement this.
Li added that GSPEF should ensure that any funding received from companies does not have commercial motives.