Shi Zhilei: Academic Research is for Giving Students Feedback

Nowadays, the results of the Ninth Qian Xuesen Urbanology Science Gold Award came out, which was highly anticipated. Professor Shi was awarded it by his monograph, The Chinese family endowment and the migration of labor force in rural areas of return and his pioneering contributions in the migration of urban and rural population.

Unexpected Award

Qian Xuesen city gold medal, which is also called Qian Xuesen gold medal with bonuses of 20,000 RMB is famous for the advocate of urbanology, Qian Xuesen, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Furthermore, this award which has been appraised and elected since 2011 has been the most authoritative award in urbanology and it is the 9th session.  As to such glorious experience, Professor Shi, a man was born after 1980s said with smile,“I have never expected that I could receive the honor.”

The works sent in for competitive appraisal are generated by the authors’ self-contribution and the experts’ recommendation in the audition throughout the country. Then, the list of winners is finally confirmed by the blind review, expert groups’ voting and the committee rating of Qian Xuesen urbanology gold medal. Shi Zhilei’s prize-winning works was also recommended by some experts in the audition.Shi said, I didn’t write an application and fill in any form and needn’t rack my brain to find some innovation points. And I won the prize after five rounds of judging. I had never expected that it would happen to me, so I was puzzled when I received the call of wining notification.

What is worth mentioning is that there was a strong judge group of Qian Xuesen urbanology gold medal this time. It was expressed in the following aspects, Pan Yunhe, the academician who has been devoted himself to the construction of smart cities was appointed as the chairman of the jury; Yang Wei, the director of the National Natural Science Foundation and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wang Guoping, former Party Secretary of Hangzhou and Consultant of Hangzhou International Urbanology Research Center and Professor Qian Yonggang, Director of Qian Xuesen Library, Shanghai Jiaotong University took the role of the vice-chairman. Wang Wei, Shi Jinbo and some other members of the Department of Chinese Academy of Social Science as well as many experts like Professor Zhou Daming were all in the list of the jury.

Those who are familiar with Professor Shi Zhilei all think that it is reasonable for him to receive such an award, even out of expectation. Undoubtedly, this is not only a highly recognition to Professor Shi’s academic research results, but a great affirmation to the research team occupied in population and regional economics of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.


Next Paper Will be Better

Professor Shi’s office, his paradise to read books widely and focus on doing research is full of books, where the plants grow greener and fresher, the measurement equations Professor Shi and his student talk about stand still in the whiteboard. Liu Sichen, a postgraduate of regional economics, 2018 who was instructed by Professor Shi recalled that his teacher didn’t go back until 10:00p.m. everyday.

Many people think Professor Shi works too hard, while he himself feel comfortable about his work and life. Academic research is his fun and life-long career. Professor Shi said, “it is an enjoyable thing for myself to be engaged in scholarship.”He also referred that though the office was small, he still could communicate with predecessors, masters and scholars in different fields and eras. Moreover, he could approach the predecessors’ thoughts, resonate with them in the soul, inspire his own creative ideas and broaden his academic view. As a result, he can move forward on the basis of the great scholars’ research outcomes.

He thinks that next paper is always a better one for being engaged in scholarship is a process where he can exceed himself constantly. A good question is merely more important than an accurate answer, as the scientific study is started with question, not the observation of phenomenon. Professor Shi said, “my horizon is expended ceaselessly and reflections are deepened continuously from a question to a topic by quantities of reading. I am used to write the second paper after the first one is finished without any rest. I often long for the better, much better.” Professor Shi, a post-80s scholar has an outstanding academic resume. Among his works, more than 90 articles are included in the Managing World, Sociological Research and other CSSCI periodicals, except what are mentioned above, there are four SSCI periodicals, and more than 20 articles are republished in the Digest of Social Sciences of China, the Digest of Academic Journals of Arts of Higher Learning Institutions, Photocopied Materials of the National People's Congress, etc.; he also published 6 monographs, including Family Endowment and the Backflow of Migrant Labor in Rural Areas of China, Social Protection and Citizenship of Chinese Farmers, Urbanization and Transformation of Traditional Farmers, Migration, Poverty and Development. Professor Shi was named the most influential young scholar in humanities and social sciences in 2015 by Book and Newspaper Data Center, Yisheng and Baidu Academic, Renmin University of China.

Curiosity and exploration of the unknown world are a state of life and an extension of life, which is Professor Shi Zhilei's understanding of academia. 

Good research must be a reflection on the real world

As a scholar of empirical research, Shi Zhilei maintains the most primitive awe to the real world. When it comes to the creative experience of the winning monograph, Family Endowment and the Return of Migrant Labor in Rural China, Shi Zhilei said,“theory comes from practices, and it will finally return to the real world to guide the practice.” He introduced to us that he did researches every year, followed by his students; He had travelled almost every county in Hubei during which he understood the facts of every areas. And he complemented, “Hubei is my second hometown.” Based on practice, Professor Shi dares to think and dares to do, when the academic circles focus their attention on the issue of the citizenization of migrant workers, Shi Zhilei began to conduct in-depth research and reflection on the backflow of rural migrant labor force as early as 2007. It lasted five years, and after numerous field investigations and theoretical accumulation, and at length, he finished the work, Family Endowment and the Return of Migrant Labor in Rural China.

Shi Zhilei believes that academic research is not high above the empty talk, good research must be on the reality of the thinking, The final decision of a good academic research, is our logical thinking and insight into the reality.  The growth of scientific knowledge depends on the construction of theory and accumulation of empirical evidence. If there is no good theory, what we accumulate is data, not knowledge. Shi Zhilei gives a vivid metaphor: Science is made up of facts, just as houses are made of stone, it is important to collect stones; But the accumulation of facts isn’t equal to the science, just like a pile of stones is not equal to the housing. Therefore, the scientific research must complete two demonstrations: the theoretical demonstration and the empirical demonstration. We need to read more classic works to accumulate theory. Meanwhile, we need to anticipate in the interview and research to obtain the first-hand data. Both are indispensable.

I think those who do research in China, no matter in economic or sociology, should have a localization perspective, should consider about the country, the nation and the specific characteristics of the times. Professor Shi’s research, with Chinese characteristics is grounded in reality, not superficial. At the same time, his research results are consistent with our country's policies of attaching importance to agriculture, rural areas and farmers and promoting the integration of urban and rural areas. What’s more, it provides theoretical support for promoting the revitalization of rural areas and the construction of new-type urbanization. 

Making Scientific Research Results a Good-sized Teaching Case

Max Weber said in Academic as a career, Every young man who wants to engage in academic work, driven by emotion, must realize the dual nature of the task before him. Not only must he be a scholar, but he must also be a qualified teacher, and the two are not exactly the same thing. One can be a great scholar, but at the same time he can also be a terrible teacher.  How to be a scholar and teacher at the same time, Shi Zhilei gives his answer: to integrate learning into teaching, scientific research and teaching.

At present, he is trying to operate the three-dimensional classroom teaching model in his teaching. He makes his scientific research achievements into large teaching cases, which run through the whole classroom with vivid cases, so that students can learn knowledge from the cases and develop their ability to find out problems and think independently. This is not only to solve puzzles and teach, but also to preach.

Students who had attended his class reported that Mr. Shi's class had used the results of his own on-the-spot investigations as a way of connecting cases and knowledge to enliven the class, which can make a person feel that the classroom is alive, and the lesson can be extended from a trunk, triggering thinking and interest, rather than dry points of knowledge. Shi Zhilei gives a perfect interpretation that the relationship between learning and teaching is not segregated, but interconnected. And he said, as a teacher, the end point of academic research is not the publication of papers, much less the completion of the teacher's own evaluation of the title, is ultimately to give back to the students, so that they stand higher than me. Of the eight graduate students who graduated under the guidance of Shi Zhilei, 4 have won the Postgraduate National Scholarship, and each student has published thesis in CSSCI.

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