Tristan Donaldson: The China Brain Project – Starting Research and Planning Ahead

My project is still in its rudimentary stages of development. In the last 2 weeks, I have focused primarily on sourcing content and brainstorming who might be best to interview later on in the summer depending on the progression of my project over the next month. I have prepared a list of about thirty potential China-affiliated scientists, A.I researchers and neuro-ethicists whose work I feel position them to provide meaningful insight into the questions I aim to answer throughout my research. I do not however plan to reach out before I have gained IRB approval and before I have spent more time consolidating my sources and the specific direction of the project. This is because I want to make sure that I ask high-quality questions that will be able to foster an engaging, impactful and targeted discussion with whomever I end up requesting to interview.

I have spent the last two weeks reading through potential sources to use in my project. These primarily include research papers examining Chinese political organization and the role of the Chinese government in the advancement of science in China, as well as articles discussing the specific scope and structure of the China Brain Project itself. I have been hesitant to venture into reading papers that seem less related to the specific topic of my research. This, however, is something I recognize I will need to overcome in order to ensure that my project can benefit from a robust interweaving of many different perspectives and facts that do not seem obvious to me right now. This means that I am currently in the process of seeking any news articles or research papers that speak to Chinese scientific advancement in any capacity, and not just as it relates to neuroscience specifically. My readings thus far on Chinese political organization have helped me to realize that much of the logic that guides scientific research in China is very similar, if not the same, regardless of the specific discipline being investigated. This means that expanding my reading to understand Chinese research into other scientific disciplines should prove valuable as I aim to understand Chinese research into neuroscience and the implementation of the China Brain project specifically. 

My goal is to prepare a well developed annotated bibliography within the next three weeks, comprising a collection of sources whose content will be able to offer some new insight or a new point of some kind such that I avoid repeating facts ad nauseam. This will entail weeding out interesting, but less relevant, sources, particularly as my main research question becomes more and more focused and the specific direction of my project becomes more clear (based on the readings I have done and will continue to do). I will aim to identify the most appropriate professionals to interview when my project’s direction has taken on a more determined form.