Announcing Data Journalism Competition Round I Winners!


With the support of IREX’s Media Development Initiative,  USCET held the first Data Journalism Competition and Awards last year. The Data Journalism Competition aims to encourage the growing field of data journalism by rewarding excellence in student articles and contributing to best practices in the field. The first competition’s theme was Balancing Social Trust and Innovation in China’s Contemporary Society.

USCET is excited to announce the winning submission for this first round of the Data Journal Competition:  “The Social Confidence of Famous Universities in Project 985 and 211” by team members Manxia Lee (李曼霞), Yanchao Mao (毛元超), and Haoyue Zhang (张皓月) from the Communication University of China.  Congratulations!



The winning project explores how reputational trust drives patterns of government investment in Chinese universities, shaping the distribution of China’s continuing development. Specifically, the authors focus on the "social confidence" of China's top universities funded under the Project 211 and Project 985 initiatives, which aim to increase research standards for higher education in China while cultivating strategies for socio-economic development.

The authors critically examined the development and consequences of the Project Universities.  They showed the importance of public reputation, using data analysis to quantify the reputational benefits of 211 and 985 Project status for universities. They found that Project Universities tend to gain prestige, funding, top quality faculty, and advanced teaching resources.  Next, the authors measured the impact of Project 211 and 985 by comparing the merits and outcomes of Project Universities with other academic institutions in China. Their data shows that there is no concrete evidence that Project universities perform better than non-Project universities, despite the funding and support differences.  Yet, they find that public preference unduly favors Project Universities, causing inefficient resource allocation throughout the university system.  The ratings of educational projects can disproportionately direct the Chinese public’s trust toward universities with government grants. In turn, such ratings further can distort funding patterns and favor select schools over broader national development.  Finally, the authors call for more balanced academic support to raise the status of Chinese universities throughout the country.

This prize-winning project demonstrated critical analysis, rigorous use of data, and creative project design.  It addresses the issue of trust in contemporary China by revealing the importance of government sanctioned reputation in public support of Chinese universities.  The authors showed how this trust influences social and economic development by region in the Chinese university system.  Through this project, the winning authors show how data journalism can effectively provide informed presentations of contemporary issues in China.

You can read their winning submission HERE.



Manxia Lee (李曼霞)

Manxia Lee is a junior at the Communication University of China, majoring in Data Journalism. She was born in Chenzhou, Hunan province. She says, “My original major [was] Applied Mathematics; it is a wonderful major but I prefer to learn something about journalism. When I [had] the chance to change my major to Data journalism in autumn of 2014, I did it. I believe that data journalism will make the journalism [field] become more vigorous.”


Yuanchao Mao (毛元超)

Yuanchao Mao is a junior at the School of Journalism at the Communication University of China. His hometown is located in Nanchang in Jiangxi province. He describes himself as having a “lively personality” and loves exercising and reading.



Haoyue Zhang (张皓月)

Haoyue Zhang is a junior majoring in Data Journalism at the Communication University of China. She was born in Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei province. She switched her major to Data Journalism after it was newly instituted in 2014. She is the editor of the figure and data journalism sections for the department magazine, News Horizon. She says, “Interviewing, writing a report, and making webpages … are fun for me. As a former science student in high school, I think the involvement of data and new technology of internet can refresh the reporting pattern and enhance the credibility of news.” 




Elisa (Jiexia) Zhai Autry

Dr. Elisa Zhai Autry is the Development and New Initiatives Principal at the US-China Education Trust. Prior to joining USCET, she was a Global Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), a Washington think tank. In addition to managing IGE’s East Asia programs, she served as a guest editor for the Review of Faith and International Affairs. Before coming to Washington, Dr. Autry was an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Gerontology and Asian/Asian American Studies at Miami University. Dr. Autry earned a B.A. in sociology and law from Peking University, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.


Zhimin Huang (黄志敏)

Mr. Huang is the Chief Technological Officer and the Founder of Data Visualization Lab at Caixin Media Company Limited, an influential Chinese business magazine. His work experience on Internet and mobile Internet spans ten years, and he is now working on incorporating big database and visualized information into the development of journalism. His group, Caixin Database Visualization, won the 2014 Award for Editorial Excellence offered by the Society of Publishers in Asia, the 2014 Tencent Annual Communication Award for Digital News, and the 2014 NetEast Annual Chinese New Media Award for Multimedia. His group is also the candidate of the British Online Award, “Information is Beautiful”. He has lectured in Communication University of China, East China Normal University, Fudan University, Qinghua University, Renmin University of China, and Xiamen University.


Jianying (Jeff) Wang

Dr. Jianying (Jeff) Wang is the editor of the online publication, He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri in 2011. His academic interest focuses on American Politics. He has 7 years of experience in using statistical methods to analyze phenomena in American federal government. He has also worked for various Chinese media in reporting American politics.