Friday, 10 May 2013

Shi-min Fang; a science writer’s hero.

Alright, so I’m not a science writer, and I’m not even an aspiring science writer because I already know that I would get far too fangirly around all those physicists with their big, sexy brains to do it with any degree of serious professionalism. But I do like science and writing, and I respect more than anyone else the people who take risks to get the truth out there into the public sphere, especially when the risks are so high.

Shi-min Fang is a Chinese science writer who has risked far more than just libel cases (which are bothersome enough as it is) to expose the straight-up lies of some people in China. He has recently won the Maddox prize – which is typically awarded to people who promote science despite perhaps facing difficult or hostility in so doing – for exposing scientific misconduct in China.

Since 2000, Shi-min Fang has been exposing fraudulent ‘scientists’ who took advantage of China’s celebration of any science and technology to publicize nonsensical, pseudoscientific articles, flog fake medicines and carry out dangerous medical procedures without clinical trials. He has made it his business as a science writer to root out those who are fakers and expose them, despite whatever threats they offer him, using his website New Threads to make this information accessible to the Chinese general public.

Many have fought his allegations, no matter how truthful they were. He has been sued more than ten times and, due to the inefficiency and bias of the Chinese court, has even wrongly lost once, as well as being assaulted with pepper spray. In 2010 hired thugs attacked Shi-min Fang with a hammer with the intention of his murder when he challenged the efficacy of a surgical procedure developed by their boss as well as the heavily padded CV he used to persuade people of his worth. Shi-min Fang is responsible for opening up a forum for criticism and debate in a society that was otherwise devoid of such freedoms.

Despite all the dangers he has faced, he maintains that it was all worth it because of the good he has done for the scientific community and the general public in China. His one concern, he admits, is the danger faced by his wife and children.

Frankly, that takes balls. And he deserves that prize, and the £2000 that comes with it, and so much more.

And he is not the only one who does. He is one of many people who risk so much just to make the world a little bit more honest. Here is hoping that one day we won’t need people like Shi-min Fang. But until then, let’s just be glad they’re around.

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