Opportunities for science research

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Opportunities for science research

Korea remains an important partner for Russia in science and technology. One of the very first inter-governmental agreements between the two countries was the agreement between the USSR government and the government of the Republic of Korea on scientific and technological cooperation signed on 14 December 1990, which led to a greater number of research projects and fueled joint activities in various research areas, especially in basic science space and nuclear science.

In recent years Russian science went through dramatic changes that resulted in a better scientific performance and opened new opportunities for international research partners including South Korea.

According to the Nature index data, the Russian share of the world’s high-quality research increased significantly between 2012 and 2015. The country’s contribution to life sciences in particular grew by more than 60 percent, indicating the largest rise among the top 10 countries in this field.

The number of Russian publications in social sciences in the Scopus database rose by more than 6 times from 661 in 2010 to 4,094 in 2015. Russian publications doubled in neurosciences, pharmacology and pharmaceuticals.

This attributes mostly to the government’s initiatives such as universities excellence project “5-100” and mega-grants program, to the strong funding of excellent researchers through the Russian Science Foundation (RSF). The latter one was established in December 2013 as the country’s premier basic research funder with the ambitious goal of finding and supporting the most promising projects and most capable scientists.

In our opinion, Korea’s drive towards “creative economy” is also admirable. The “5-7-7” program, which stipulates investment in R&D at a rate of 5 percent of GDP, the development of seven prioritized fields and the country’s advancement to the 7th most scientifically and technologically developed nation, provided solid support for basic research, IT, nanotechnology, biotechnology, “green technologies,” and new types of energy and materials.

In the quest to win a Nobel prize, South Korea invests heavily in R&D. The 4.29 percent (63.7 trillion won) invested in R&D in 2014 leaves behind Israel (with 4.11 percent), Japan, the nation’s most bitter regional rival, and the United States. The infrastructure investments of building the Institute for Basic Science, the Pohang Accelerator Laboratory and state-of-the-art Antarctic research centre in Terra Nova Bay are truly remarkable. This May the Korean government committed that it would boost funding for basic research by 36 percent by 2018, to 1.5 trillion won.

It is a strategic agenda for both countries now to capitalize on the complementary synergies between excellent Russian basic research in aviation and space technology, nuclear energy, material science and medicine with Korean advanced technologies in pharmaceuticals, robotics, electronics and car manufacturing.

With as strong a position as ever in research funding, science authorities in Korea and Russia share interest in research dealing with public health, big-data applications, the production of composite and ultra-strong materials, genetic engineering and other transformative research focused primarily on improving quality of life.

High research output relevant for the prestigious international journals may be expected from collaborative projects in biotechnology, artificial-intelligence, polar and marine research, computer sciences. The development of common view on the history and new ideas for inter-Korean settlement, FTA and urban studies, new education technologies, cultural exchange, aging society issues may be the appropriate subjects of the new joint research projects in social sciences with direct impact on the communities living in both countries.

In modern big-budget science it is now a bold task for the funding agencies to make steps towards the development of new joint funding schemes and robust grant programs that would leverage the unique internal capabilities and combine the growing research competencies of Korea and Russia.

Only unified, concentrated and consistent efforts can help to solve the grand challenges such as food safety, infectious diseases, cancer, ageing population, climate change, technogenic catastrophes, the social welfare net and solidifying further the long-term strong position of two countries in the global science. If we invest in the high-profile research together, the risks can be minimized while the pay-off is going to be enormous.

We will perhaps see some Nobel-winning projects developed by Russian and Korean researchers jointly. For this common goal, the Russia Science Foundation and the Korea Research Foundation and Korea Green Life Intellectual Network will cooperate closely together.

*The author is CEO for International relations, Russian Science Foundation.

Sergey Konovalov
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