Crossing the limits of time and boundaries and bridging Taiwan with Asia, Europe and North America, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) hosted the “2020 NCKU International Virtual Forum on COVID-19,” which lasted for 12 hours, on April 21. More than 150 members, including presidents of universities, scholars, and medical professionals, engaged “face to face” to exchange first-hand information. The three main topics of this forum included the impact on and changes in higher education under the cloud of the pandemic, the balance between globalization and precaution and medical research and development in the future. Dr. C. Jason Wang, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University, who published a research paper entitled, “Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan Big Data Analytics, New Technology, and Proactive Testing,” in JAMA in the early March, was invited to deliver a keynote speech at the forum.
Dr. C. Jason Wang, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University delivered a keynote speech at the forum.
Dr. Huey-Jen Jenny Su, President of NCKU, pointed out that the world now is combating the COVID-19 with professional knowledge, strategic leadership, change management, resource integration, and international cooperation in order to return to normalcy. Taiwan is a small island that has the high energy and resilience necessary to carry out the sustainable development taking place in Taiwan. NCKU is coordinating with its regional partners to work together in order to assume the social responsibility that a university should strive for under such circumstances.
Dr. Wang mentioned that Taiwan has achieved outstanding results in preventing the COVID-19 outbreak thus far. Implementing proactive, effective actions, such as border control, cross functional communication, and big data analytics, within 30 days after the onset of COVID-19 are the key factors related to success prevention of pandemic. In addition, ever since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, Taiwan has been ready to quickly mobilize, institute, and unify a central command system to protect public health.
Dr. Wang also pointed out that the effectiveness of these actions in preventing COVID-19 is like a harmonious symphony orchestra led by a conductor that is successful due to joint efforts.
Based on the concept of regional alliance, scholars from the University of Tsukuba (Japan), the University of Malaya (Malaysia), the University of Mahidol (Thailand), the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), the SRM Institute of Science and Technology (India), the University of Masaryk (Czechoslovakia), and the University of Cincinnati (U.S.), and medical professionals from Turkey, Thailand, and Laos all participated in this online forum. Representatives of the Presidents' Forum of Southeast and South Asia and Taiwan Universities (SATU) and the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) also joined the forum. In addition, officials from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Ministry of Science and Technology shared Taiwan’s successful experiences with preventing the COVID-19 outbreak.
This 12-hour forum had more members participate in the discussion in each session and also broadcasted live through YouTube to other countries.
Dr. Huey-Jen Jenny Su hosted the first session. COVID-19 impacts greatly higher education. However, opportunities have come along with the crisis. Many countries moved all their education online in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which reversed the concept of conventional education and enhanced cyber education. The most recent session discussed the turning point of the transition of higher education to a more resilient attitude toward the pandemic. The attendees of this session included presidents and professors from the University of Tsukuba (Japan), the University of Mahidol (Thailand), and the University of Malaya (Malaysia). Dr. Kyosuke Nagata, President of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, pointed out that the pandemic resulted in alienation and isolation between human beings. He expressed that the essential task of higher education is to rebuild connections and interactions among human beings and countries after the pandemic. He also suggested that the if the content of online courses can be easily accessed, this would be an advantage for people who are more disadvantaged in terms of economic status.
The second session began at 14:30 and was hosted by Dr. Fong-Chin Su,Executive Vice President, NCKU. The European Union (EU) encouraged people to communicate across the boundaries of countries. However, due to the pandemic, member countries of the EU have been forced to into lockdowns and quarantine conditions. In this session, European scholars mentioned taking into consideration ethnicity, democracy, and human rights when implementing quarantine policies. Quarantine policies also raised the concern of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The attendees in this session included representatives from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Thailand, and India.
The third session began at 14:30 and was hosted by Dr. Woei-Jer Chuang, AssociateVice President, NCKU. The mainly attendees of this session included scholars and medical professionals from the U.S., Canada, Turkey, Switzerland, and Great Britain. The U.S. has played an essential role in medical research and development related to this issue. This session focused on the cooperation among universities, research institutes, and governments all over the world in regard to more effective research on a vaccine, rapid testing, and medicines for treatment.
In addition to the 150 scholars sharing opinions online, faculty members, students from NCKU and delegates from the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Asia Office joined the discussion. This forum was also broadcast live through YouTube in an effort to provide countries suffering from the epidemic with more perspectives on the topic.
When contacting and inviting scholars and professionals to participate in the International Virtual Forum on COVID-19, the Office of International Affairs heard about the pressure caused by lockdowns and quarantine from people in many countries and realized how proud Taiwan should be about maintaining normalcy during the pandemic.