Gordon Research Conferences expand in Hong Kong

25 April 2014

The Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) has reaffirmed its commitment to expansion in the Asian region with an increasing number of conferences held in Hong Kong every year since 2000.

There will be a total of 7 conferences and 2 seminars in 2014, and 13 conferences and 3 seminars have just been approved for 2015, according to director, Nancy Gray. To facilitate the international exchange of ideas, the Croucher Foundation has also decided to support the 2015 conferences in the form of funding.

A big-name player in the scientific conference community, GRC is a nonprofit that will hold more than 600 conferences around the world in 2014 and 2015. In 2011, it chose Hong Kong over Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore as a base to establish sites for conferences, marking the beginning of its Hong Kong expansion.

Gray states that they began looking for a place to establish sites “as part of our strategic plan and in recognition of the quality of science in Asia and the huge increase in number of scientists here”. She travelled all over Asia before deciding on Hong Kong.

“Because of its ease of travel, it doesn’t require a visa or for scientists to take vaccinations. Hong Kong is also modern and well developed; having been a British colony for so long, it’s China yet very international,” Gray says.

According to Gray, not only have the Hong Kong conferences been very successful, they have also attracted more scientists from regions other than Asia to attend GRCs than those in the US or Europe.

She says, “The most important thing this has produced is a real recognition of the value and the interest of serving scientists globally. Not only have we seen an increase in our Asian participants, we have also increased in participants globally because they come to Hong Kong and they see the value in going to GRC as a whole.”

According to figures from GRC, participation in Hong Kong has doubled from 4 per cent of the overall attendance in 2012 to 8 percent in 2013.

Professor Nancy Ip, the dean of science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), who was also the vice-chairman of the first GRC meeting in Hong Kong in 2000, says that the increasing number of conferences held here provides “a wonderful opportunity for scientists in this region to communicate with those of others”.

“Most of the time, scientists from other parts of the world do not want to travel to us in Asia, having the conference converge in Hong Kong allows more local scientists to interact with global scientists, including Nobel Laureates. This really helps to promote the advance of science in this region.”

Professor Alfonso. Ngan, chairman of the GRC on Nano-Mechanical Interfaces held in August this year in Hong Kong, concurs.

“Research in Asia is becoming better and there are more researchers who can contribute to GRCs, either as speakers or discussion leaders. However, at the end, people in US or Europe often find it expensive to come to Asia for meetings, and vice versa. So an ideal way is for a particular GRC to rotate between different continents in different years,” he says.

Kenneth Seddon, co-chair of the GRC on Green Chemistry that is to be held for the first time in Asia this year, believes that as GRC conferences are ongoing communities that meet on a two year cycle, rotating between sites also allows the topic to gain more outreach.

“Green Chemistry is a global challenge – our future, in a real sense, depends on its success. As the Green Chemistry GRC had previously only been held in the USA and Europe, it had only a limited reach. Mark Harmer and I thought it vital to reach an extended audience,” Seddon says.

He emphasises the benefits of the Hong Kong expansion of GRC, not only Hong Kong research, but also for that of the worlds, “Science does not recognise national or geographical boundaries, and global cooperation in all fields is essential in the 21st Century.”

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