Singaporean economist and academic, Mr Li Shengwu, has been awarded the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship for 2023.

Mr Li, who is the son of Lee Hsien Yang and the estranged nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has been recognised for his exceptional academic contributions.

The Sloan Research Fellowship is given to outstanding early-career researchers in recognition of their potential to revolutionize their fields of study. The fellowship is administered by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and has been awarded annually since 1955.

The fellowship provides a two-year, US$75,000 grant to support the fellow’s research, which can be used for any reasonable purpose that advances their research, such as the purchase of equipment, hiring research assistants, or attending conferences.

The selection process for the fellowship is highly competitive and based on the candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to make significant contributions to their field. Fellows are selected from a wide range of disciplines, including chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, economics, neuroscience, and more.

Many past Sloan Fellows have gone on to become towering figures in science, with 56 Fellows receiving a Nobel Prize in their respective fields, 17 winning the Fields Medal in mathematics, and 22 winning the John Bates Clark Medal in economics, including every winner since 2007.

In 2016, he was selected to become a fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, a rare distinction that recognises young scholars for their potential to advance academic wisdom. Li’s co-authored paper with Harvard University’s Economics associate professor was picked by 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Economics Alvin Roth as being the most significant economics research paper in 2018.

Additionally, in the same year, Mr Li was awarded the Exeter Prize from the University of Exeter’s Business School for the best paper published in the previous calendar year in a peer-reviewed journal in the fields of Experimental Economics, Behavioural Economics and Decision Theory. His paper, titled Obviously Strategy-Proof Mechanisms and published in the American Economic Review, was deemed the most significant in his field.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang expressed his joy and pride in his son’s latest accomplishment, saying, “I am thrilled that Shengwu continues to bring honour to Singapore.” He added, “I don’t know whether any other Singaporean has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship before.”

However, Mr Li is currently under self-exile from Singapore following a series of unpleasant exchanges between him and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) over its relentless pursuit of a charge of contempt of court for a private Facebook post he made in 2017.

In July 2020, Mr Li was found guilty of the charge and he was required to pay a fine of S$15,000.

In a Facebook post, Mr Li said, “the government has wasted three years of civil servants’ time” over “three words in a private Facebook post”. He also criticised the AGC, stressing that it is “supposed to be an apolitical agency, even though the current attorney general was my uncle’s personal lawyer”.

“In a kind of cruel irony, the AGC has spent long hours lecturing me about my grandfather’s values,” he said.

Mr Li, who is publicly known as the blue-eyed grandson of the late Lee Kuan Yew, wrote, “As I was arranging my bookshelf the other day, I came across a gift from my childhood. (photo attached) Those were better times, before my uncle bullied his siblings and tore the family apart,”

The book was titled, “From Third World to First”.

Mr Li’s mother, Lee Suet Fern, was also targetted by AGC, with a complaint to the Law Society which resulted in a 15-month suspension for her as a lawyer.

Despite his legal troubles, his academic achievements continue to garner recognition and acclaim in the scientific community.

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