China fosters interdisciplinary research to promote innovation

Updated 2018-03-24 12:56:02 Xinhua

Fu Haohuan and his team are using the world's fastest supercomputer to forge ahead China's research on Earth system science.

With a strong academic background in computer science, Fu joined the Department of Earth Science Systems at Tsinghua University in 2010 and has been conducting interdisciplinary research in the two areas.

"I think research across boundaries may prompt new ideas and has great potential to generate revolutionary technological innovation," Fu said.

In 2017, Fu's team used the world's fastest supercomputer, Sunway TaihuLight, to simulate China's Tangshan earthquake in 1976. They achieved great efficiency in performing the simulation and creating 3D visualizations of the devastating earthquake, which will help improve earthquake modeling and preparedness.

Their research won the 2017 ACM Gordon Bell Prize, nicknamed the "Nobel Prize" of supercomputing applications.

Fu's team is now using the supercomputer to conduct a simulation of the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, which he believes is "a more challenging research problem" considering the more complex geological structure and the landslides the earthquake caused.

"This calls for more interdisciplinary research and talent from the intersections of dynamics, geology and engineering," Fu said.

China implements national strategies for innovation-driven development, and interdisciplinary research has become an important path for obtaining high-level innovation results.

In January, the State Council issued a guidance on intensifying basic research, encouraging interdisciplinary research, and balanced and coordinated development of basic disciplines and applied disciplines.

"China will promote the construction of national centers of interdisciplinary research," said the guidance.

MORE PLATFORMS

More interdisciplinary research platforms and projects have been launched across China's universities, institutions as well as enterprises.

In December 2017, Tsinghua University established the Tsinghua Laboratory of Brain and Intelligence (THBI) and the Future Laboratory, both platforms to promote interdisciplinary research.

Wang Xiaoqin, director of the THBI said brain science is a discipline where engineering and life sciences intersect to a high degree.

"The THBI will make the most of Tsinghua's advantages in these subjects to explore the complex issues at the frontier of brain science, and to promote fundamental research in AI," Wang said.

Peking University set up an interdisciplinary research center for medical studies and information science in January.

Zhan Qimin, vice president of Peking University, said medical science can be a platform where a variety of cutting-edge disciplines intersect.

Fu, also deputy director of the National Supercomputing Center where Sunway TaihuLight is located, believes that the supercomputer itself is a platform for interdisciplinary research.

"Scientists from different disciplines may harness the computational resources to advance their research. More than 100 institutions have used Sunway TaihuLight in more than 60 research domains," Fu said.

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