Taipei, March 15 (CNA) Despite being one of only a few female seismologists in Taiwan, Ma Kuo-fong (馬國鳳) has never liked to talk about being a "female scientist."
"Why not just call me as a scientist?" Ma says, responding to a question asked by a student during the Gro Brundtland Week of Women in Sustainable Development series activity in the eastern Taiwan county of Hualien on Wednesday.
The question was about the pros and cons of women conducting scientific research. Ma replied that there is no difference between men and women in terms of conducting scientific work, but in a traditional society like Taiwan, women are more likely to have greater family responsibilities.
"Such a phenomenon still exists" today, she said.
Ma, a professor in earth sciences at National Central University in Taoyuan, was one of the experts speaking at the latest Gro Brundtland Week event held at Tzu Chi University.
Asked about Taiwan's national early warning system for earthquakes and why some people received text messages from the system on their smart phones while others don't, Ma said Taiwan's system is a long way behind the one in Japan and is limited by government policy and telecommunication technologies.
However, there is another reason people do not receive the warning text message, she said.
"Bandwidth is a valuable resource and so it is impossible to send warning messages to all 23 million people in Taiwan whenever an earthquake occurs," the seismologist said.
Ma explained that only those in an area where the magnitude of the earthquake is predicted to be 4 or higher receive the warning. The idea is to ensure people have valuable extra seconds to escape from possible danger.
Although we are talking about seconds, that is still enough for cars to slow down, or surgeons to take precautions in the middle of an operation, Ma said.
Such a warning can also allow factories to shut down operations to minimize losses due to jolts caused by earthquakes, she added.
She also reminded students to be always alert and suggested they pay attention to the location of emergency exits or places they could hide from an earthquake whenever they are in a public place or a hotel.
"On average Taiwan is hit by a severe earthquake every 30 years, and there's no way of knowing if it will be this year or the next," Ma said.
The Gro Brundtland Week of Women in Sustainable Development series, jointly organized by the Taipei-based Tang Prize Foundation and National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, started on March 12 with the aim of promoting public interest in sustainable development and honoring female researchers from developing countries and Taiwan.
All five winner of this year's Gro Brundtland Award and renowned domestic and foreign scholars were invited to give lectures and talks on topics from women's and children's health, to disease and environmental sustainability during a six-day tour around Taiwan, which is scheduled to end on March 17.
Brundtland, the winner of the first Tang Prize in sustainable development, often called the "godmother of sustainable development," used the NT$5 million (US$162,114), a part of cash prize she received from the Tang Prize to establish the Gro Brundtland Award to recognize distinguished researchers in their field.
The prize requires that candidates must be female, under 40 years old, citizens of a developing country or Taiwan, hold a research doctorate and carry out research related to public health or sustainable development.
(By Chen Chih-chung and Elizabeth Hsu)