Sad News: Puay Tang has passed away


Puay Tang

Puay Tang

This morning, when I was coming to work, I stopped to buy the usual packet of tissues from one of the Africans on my payroll, so to speak, and when I asked him how he was doing, he replied: "Thanks to God, we are alive".

His answer brought painfully back to me the memory of Puay, whom I learned yesterday morning had died of a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer.

I spent the whole day with a knot in my throat and a repressed desire to cry, remembering Puay's noisy teenage laughter; her mischievous and penetrating gaze, reflecting her intelligence and sharpness; her syntheses so fast, so brilliant and so certain; her courage, bordering on daring.

When my wife, Ángeles, arrived home that night she asked me: "What is wrong with you?" and I said: "I am very sad, Puay has died". Almost at the same time, we said the two of us: "Don't touch, don't buy", a phrase that she used once, years ago, in a fruit shop where they wouldn't let her touch the fruit and that we have been repeating since then whenever we remembered her.

Puay was a researcher by vocation and profession, with an intellectual strength out of the ordinary. In her articles we can perceive her unrenounceable self-requirement: dignitatis memores ad optima intenti, "those who are conscious of their own dignity tend to the best".

I have read only a little more than half a dozen of her articles published in the well-known journals of scientometrics and science policy to which she used to send her work. I was particularly interested in what she published on the entrepreneurial dimension of university professors, the models of knowledge transfer offices, the development of indicators for the social sciences and her contribution to the design of public policies.

Puay was a typical citizen of our time: an ethnic Chinese woman who lived as a child in Malaysia until she moved to Canada, which she considered her country: ubi bene, ibi patria, "where one is well, there is one's homeland". From Canada she moved to the US and finally, she settled in Sussex. She spent most of her life there, never ceasing to be surprised by the occasional British eccentricities.

It is said that one does not die completely as long as there is someone who remembers them, misses them, quotes them.

Well, Puay is not entirely dead because there are many of us who will remember her vitality, her energy, her intelligence, her sympathy for many years to come.

Javier López Facal. CSIC ad honorem research professor