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Marine geologist Wang Pinxian, 85, is seen with viewers’ bullet comments on the background of one of his posts on Chinese social video-sharing platform Bilibili. Photo: Handout

Bilibili: 85-year-old marine geologist becomes China’s latest social media star as science education gains mass appeal

  • Wang Pinxian, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, accumulated 280,000 followers in less than a week on Bilibili
  • His two posts on the popular video-sharing platform attracted more than 2 million views by Monday afternoon
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Marine geologist  Wang Pinxian has become the latest science  influencer to hit it big on China’s social media, reinforcing the recent success of scholars and institutions in creating educational content with a mass appeal on popular online video platforms.
The 85-year-old Wang, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) since 1991, garnered 280,000 followers in less than a week on online video-sharing service  Bilibili after posting only two videos.
The two videos – an introduction explaining his experience with ocean-drilling projects and another on calculating the age of the  South China Sea – attracted more than 2 million views by Monday afternoon.

Wang joins a growing number of scientists and research institutes making science more accessible to a general audience on social media, especially among the young users on various platforms.

In 2018, Wang Pinxian (right, foreground) was part of a team who dove to a depth of 1,410 metres aboard Chinese research submersible Shenhai Yongshi, or Deep Sea Warrior, to collect samples in the South China Sea. Photo: Xinhua

The Institute of Physics, under the CAS, is one of the more active scientific organisations presenting content about popular science to a general audience online. 

Having accumulated more than 1.5 million followers on Bilibili since offering its first video in 2019, the institute’s account has posted more than 570 videos, which has accumulated nearly 49 million views in total, including content ranging from knowledge-sharing to singing and dancing.

Some of the institute’s most popular postings include a video about the organisation’s canteen, which attracted more than 2.7 million views and 115,000 likes, made in collaboration with popular food influencer Daoyueshe. Its video about the first image of a black hole recorded about 1.3 million views.

Knowledge content, such as how-to videos and science popularisation, was one of Bilibili’s fastest-growing segments last year, according to the company, which said China’s Generation Z consumers made up most of its users.

Short video-sharing platforms, traditionally known for entertainment and humorous videos, are increasingly attracting serious content creators from academia. The Institute of Physics, for example, has set up an account on  ByteDance-owned  Douyin, sister app of  TikTok, which has 1.8 million followers, according to a check on Monday. The official Douyin account of CAS has nearly 1.2 million followers.