The difference between research in China and NZ

By Brendan Moyle 01/05/2014

I think one of the challenges to doing research in China, is actually getting hold of the data.  And in this sense, I’m talking about data that actually already exists.

This is how I’d do it in New Zealand.

  1. Log on to the relevant database.
  2. Put in search criteria.
  3. Download the data.

Now there may be a registration fee or cost to access this data, but pretty much, that’s the process.  If it exists, it’ll be on a database and you will, as a researcher, be able to access it.

This is how you do it in China.

  1. Make tentative inquiries as to what data is available.
  2. Travel to China
  3. Meet with the people who have the data
  4. Send emails requesting data, requesting information on process to get data, repeat. Be ignored.
  5. Find someone with more authority, repeat step 4, receive vague, noncommittal responses
  6. Travel back to China a year later
  7. Meet with people who have data again and discuss what you want and why.
  8. Find they won’t release data if someone with more authority does not approve first
  9. Contact person with more authority
  10. Meet with person with more authority (different city of course)
  11. Follow up step 10 with a detailed outline of what you want to use the data for
  12. Leave China
  13. Follow up with relevant authority figure. Not too often so as not to be a pest. Not too infrequently so it slips as a priority
  14. Follow up with people who have the data
  15. Wait
  16. Get the data after roughly two years

It’s why, a lot of people never get off the ground trying to do research in China.  It doesn’t have a Western scientific cultural way of doing research.