TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On Monday, as China claimed credit for a new reagent for a rapid Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) test developed by Academia Sinica, Taiwanese legislators met on Monday (March 9) to discuss changing the institution's name by removing the Latin word "Sinica."
The Legislative Yuan's Education and Culture Committee held the meeting to discuss the current situation at Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institution, and invited its President James Liao (廖俊智) to attend. After a question and answer session, the committee put forth two proposals: Changing the foreign language name of Academia Sinica to something more appropriate that does not include a reference to "China," and adding Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) lab researchers along with a long-term talent cultivation program, reported CNA.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Fan Yun (范雲) noted that the word "Sinica" in Latin means "Chinese." She said that foreign countries often mistakenly believe that Academia Sinica is "China's Academy of Sciences."
Fan pointed out that when the institute posted news about its rapid development of a reagent to test COVID-19, it included tags such as "Taiwanresearch." She said that the term "Taiwanica" is already used in international scientific journals to describe a citrus fruit, moth, and sea snail, among other flora and fauna endemic to Taiwan, reported SET News.
Fan then suggested changing the center's name to "Academia Taiwanica," reported Newtalk. She also mentioned that the Latin name for the country's Formosan black bear is "Ursus thibetanus formosanus," hinting that "Academia Formosanus" could be another possibility.
In response, Kuomintang (KMT) Central Standing Committee member Lee De-wei (李德維) said that it should not be up to Academia Sinica to decide whether to make the name change. He claimed that it was an "embarrassment" to the researchers at the center and said the proposal is likely tied to the Office of the President.
The committee initially requested that the academy present its findings on the two proposals, including a suggested name, within two months. However, Liao asked that the deadline be extended for six months, as he said there are many issues involved, such as international treaties.
The committee agreed to Liao's request to postpone the submission. Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅), a member of the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union and one of the committee's two conveners, insisted, however, that the institution still submit its plans on recruiting BSL-3 researchers within two months.
At a press conference held after the meeting, Liao was asked by reporters to respond to Chinese state-run media claims that China's Academia Sinica had developed the new reagent, to which he said, "This is not the case at all. Of course, it has nothing to do with [China]." He emphasized that "We developed this completely on our own."