[Viewpoint] A call for scientific reinvention!

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[Viewpoint] A call for scientific reinvention!

A country’s competitiveness in the 20th century depends largely on science and technology. A scientific and technological standard will become the yardstick by which to gauge national strength, or at least pride.

Without advances in science and technology, South Korea’s future is uncertain. Science and technology should therefore rank as important of a state agenda item as political and economic issues.

Debates and efforts to narrow differences and seek solutions in the science and technology fields will brighten the country’s prospects.

The Institute of Basic Science will be established in Daejeon as part of the country’s ambitious project to create a global-scale science and business belt. The academy aims to incubate basic and convergence science research and development in hopes of building the country into a powerhouse in science and technology.

It has been almost a year since the National Science and Technology Commission was launched. The commission is meant to work as the top executive council on scientific research and development with an aim to buttress national prestige and wealth by coordinating cooperation in science and technology.

It presented a long-term blueprint to develop these sectors, converged scattered research and development resources and capabilities and enhanced efficiency in investment appropriation.

The government’s will and actions to promote science and technology have been commendable. But the government must revise a support system for research and development and better appropriate a budget in order to enhance efficacy of its promotion.

Basic science research and developments of core technologies accompanying high risk and return require two to three years to make any progress. They require continuous support and investment from five to 20 years. State science and technology projects therefore should remain intact regardless of who benefits from the presidential election.

When I returned to my home country after teaching at U.S. universities for 30 years, I was first surprised by heavy reliance on the government in the science and technology field. State support is necessary and helpful in many ways, but can often do harm.

Professors’ devotion to research, service as role models to students regarding ethics and efforts to foster new minds and leaders are part of the university’s fundamental role that does not necessitate government interference or support.

Research is the researcher’s proprietary work and requires freedom. But freedom in research is often not used to benefit national interests and the country’s science and technology development.

Universities and research institutes should pursue excellence in education and research by breeding culture to promote a higher goal. The science and technology field can become world-class once its pursuit of effectiveness is maximized with government policies and support.

Research academies, universities, scientists and engineers, government, legislators and industry should all form a network to enhance effective cooperation and convergence between academia and industry.

Such collaboration could be loss-making for the parties in the short-run. But it should be ready to pay the price for the sake of progress in the field and well-being of our future generation.

Lecturers, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students all should bear confidence, courage and will that they could change the world with their work and studies. For innovations, changes should first start within. Academies and scientists should reinvent themselves first.

Translation by Korea JoongAng Daily staff

*The author is the president of Pohang University of Science and Technology, Postech.

by Kim Yong-min
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