Straightening up state-funded institutesPredicting the future is not easy. In fact, it is not easy to foresee what will happen next. The best way to predict the future is to create the future. Creation is the power to proactively lead the fourth industrial revolution. Science and technology are the necessary elements in predicting and preparing for the future and key tools for national prosperity.
The national research and development projects are changing from chasing models to creation models. 50 years ago, President Park Chung Hee established state-funded research institute, KIST, to catch up with science and technology. The state-funded institute was established to train and use outstanding research staff. Park’s invention of a government-funded research institute only exists in Korea.
Senior scientists remember Park’s presidency as the golden days when researchers were compensated handsomely. While administrations named science and technology as major government projects, seniors lament that scientists are not treated fairly in the field.
There are currently 24 state-funded research institutes, using over 4 trillion won ($3.58 billion) in research and development. Whenever the administration changes, the government discuss the status of state-funded institutes and problems, but not much change in the field. Due to the long-standing evil of inconsistent policies, they cannot meet the demand of the market nor show efficiency corresponding to national policy. Some are skeptical of the existence itself. Researchers complain that they cannot perform well due to government intervention and regulation, and the government is dissatisfied that the research outcomes do not benefit the national economy as much as expectation despite increases in the research budget.
Science and technology point us in the direction of creation in an uncertain future. It is not something that can show clear improvement in national competitiveness by intensively developing over a five year presidency. Progress in technology is not a coincidence but a mere outcome of consistent efforts.
The government should promote science and technology with consistent policies regardless of changes to the administration. The president should personally prepare consistent and executable science and technology policy. The government-funded institutes set up over 50 years ago need to be reorganized. For R&D innovation, inconsistent policies under the jurisdiction of various ministries need to be integrated and coordinated, and the new initiative should reflect autonomy and accountability.