In 2016/2017, Mette Halskov Hansen led the CAS project Airborne: Pollution, Climate Change, and New Visions of Sustainability in China, which brought together Norwegian and Chinese scholars to conduct interdisciplinary research.  

‘During the Airborne project’s stay at CAS, we had more time than normal to talk about the many challenges that we faced as scholars coming from Norway, China and, not least, very different academic disciplines and traditions’, says the Professor of China Studies at the University of Oslo (UiO).

At CAS, the scholars learned a lot about each other’s research methodologies and interests by having these “long conversations”, she said.

The 2016/2017 CAS project Airborne: Pollution, Climate Change, and New Visions of Sustainability in China attempted to "answer the questions of how, and to which extent, Communist authorities, scientists, rural/urban inhabitants, and environmental organizations interact in responding to the inseparable risks of air pollution in China and global climate change".

They realized that as soon as the CAS project finished, they would have to go back to their separate research institutions.

‘Close collaborations of this kind would again become more difficult’, notes Hansen.  

The team saw the need for formalising their interdisciplinary collaboration through the birth of a new institution.

‘We realized that we needed a better way to ensure that students and early career scholars from Norway would gain access to doing research and working with scholars in, and on, China’, Hansen says.  

The idea of a joint centre between UiO and Zhejiang University was born, and the plan was welcomed by the two universities. They landed a deal last year after Rector Svein Stølen (UiO) visited Zhejiang.   

This is not a straightforward accomplishment in a Chinese university, Hansen says.

‘We were all very pleased when in September of this year, we were able to formally open the centre and have our first joint workshop at Zhejiang University on the topic of interdisciplinary research on society and environment in China and in comparative perspectives.’

The Sino-Norwegian Centre for Research on Society and Environment (SINORSE) is led by Mette Halskov Hansen (UiO) and Professor Yu Jianxing (Zhejiang University). The centre will hire a PhD, who will dedicate 25 % to administrative tasks.