KOFST President Park emphasizes the need for more investments in basic science study
In an era of convergence, an individual technology is less significant, but convergence technologies do matter, and manpower and policy need to be complemented with each other ,” said Park Sang-Dai, president of the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies (KOFST).
“We’re now basking in the benefits of 1980s investments in the IT sector. We have to brace for the advent of the bio economy era in between the 2030s and 2040s °™multi-purpose, bio-tech solutions to such issues as food shortages, health troubles, stem cells, environment, and energy problems,” Park said. “And what is more important is to upgrade scientists,” he said. The government has set aside 1 trillion won in the bio sector out of the 330 trillion won national budget for this year.
When asked about his philosophy on the development of the science and technology fields as the head of the KOFST representing 5 million scientists and engineers, he said, “The KOFST provides support to 780 science and technology organizations and associations to ramp up science and technology competitiveness with the conviction that science and technology is a driving force behind competitive edge of the nation.”
Looking at science and technology competitiveness, Korea ranks 11th in terms of the publication of scientific papers, but the nation places 19th in the qualitative aspects and 30th in paper citations.
To name a few globally renowned scientists, Korea has Prof. V. Narry Kim, of Seoul National University, who has been designated one of the “National Scientists,” and Dr. Shin Hee-Sup, Director of the Center for Neural Science at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. “We host annual meetings with globally-famous Korean scientists in Korea and abroad,” Park said.
Twenty-five science & technology-friendly people have been elected at the recent general elections, boding well for Korea to realize the goal of becoming a global science and technology power, he said.
Park has devoted himself to promoting science and technology development behind the nation’s astonishing economic growth. He’s been in the field of molecular biology study for 35 years since he became the youngest Seoul National University professor at the age of 29 in 1967 and is a member of National Academy of Sciences.
Park seems quiet outwardly, but is a strong leader among scientists. He has been credited for playing leading roles in attracting the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), an international organization devoted to the development and introduction of new vaccines for the world’s poorest children, to Korea while serving as Dean of Research Affairs at Seoul National University. The following are excerpts from an interview between NewsWorld and KOFST President Park, in which he touched on the current situation of the Korean science and technology fields as well as the Federation’s mission and mid- and long-term development plans.
Question: Will you introduce the KOFST’s mission and projects?
Answer: The KOFST was established in 1966 with the goal of fostering and supporting science and technology societies, encouraging scientists to engage with society, promoting the rights and interests of scientists and engineers, and developing science and technology policies for the development of the nation. The following year, it assisted in inaugurating the predecessor of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The federation has since played leading roles in promoting the development of the nation’s science and technology and enhancing its global competitiveness by conducting diverse projects such as supporting science and technology societies’ academic activities, promoting global science and technology exchanges, promoting regional science and technology and building related infrastructure, offering guidance & survey of the pending science and technology issues, proposing policy suggestions, and bringing together overseas ethnic Korean scientists and engineers’ capacity.
The KOFST, which started as a 71-member body with four umbrella organizations, has now grown into the nation’s major organization representing 500 million scientists and engineers. The Federation now comprises of about 780 academic science and technology organizations, public and private research institutions, 12 regional federations, 16 overseas ethnic Korean scientists and engineers’ associations, the Council for the Promotion of Science and Technology Exchanges between South and North Korea.
KOFST’s major annual projects include a New Year’s Greeting for Scientists and Engineers inviting the President of Koreas, a medal-awarding ceremony celebrating Science Day in April, the Annual Meeting of Science and Technology Session in July and Korea Science and Technology Awards & Academic Forum, and Korea-Europe, Korea-Canada, and Korea-U.S. academic forums between July and August.
Q: The roles of academic organizations are important for promoting the science and technology fields. What roles does the KOFST play in exchanges and support to and between the member organizations?
A: Supporting about 570 science and technology societies’ academic activities for promoting basic science and fundamental technology development is one of the KOFST’s major responsibilities. In this regard, we support the publication of domestic and international journals as well as fund and help organize academic conferences at home and abroad. During 2011, the KOFST offered support for the publication of 504 Korean and English academic journals, for the funding and organizing of 323 domestic and international academic conferences, and for memberships with 89 international academic societies.
The KOFST’s efforts have paid off. Only three Korean journals °™ the Bulletin K. Chemical Society, the J.K. Physical Society, and the Moll & Cells °™ were listed on the Science Citation Index (SCI) as of 1995. The KOFST contributed to Korea’s ranking 11th in the world with the publication of about 40,000 SCI papers in 2010.
In particular, the Korean Council of Science Editors (KCSE) was inaugurated on Sept. 21, 2011. The KOFST is supporting the KCSE with the aim of elevating domestic science and technology achievements to international standards. The KOFST presents the nation’s top Science and Technology Awards, the most prestigious award in the field in Korea, and the Science and Technology Excellence Paper Award catering to young scientists at the Annual National Science and Technology Session in July, during which experts from industry, academic, and research circles and policymakers get together and discuss science and technology agendas.
We are committed to supporting plans to expand financial support to academic bodies in the coming years and focusing on strengthening 570 member academic societies’ capacity. The KOFST strives not just to expand its financial support budget, but also to explore and implement projects to enhance member organizations’ sense of ownership and pride in Federation as a specialized body contributing to the prosperity of people and the development of society.
Q: Do you see that Korea has gained much ground in its science and technology development levels? How does the KOFST handle globalization and international exchanges and cooperation?
A: Korea ranked 5th and 14th in terms of science competitiveness and technology competitiveness according to the 2011 World Competition Rankings and the results of the “Government Efficiency Gap,” announced by IMD. The achievements represent the nation’s great strides from the institution in the 1960s when Korea was one of the world’s poorest countries.
Starting with the United States, the KOFST has organized overseas ethnic Korean scientists and engineers’ associations in 16 countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, and has stepped up their networking with Korean counterparts at home. Currently, as a major project, the KOFST has been building a personnel information system on some 17,000 ethnic Korean scientists and engineers scattered around the globe. When the database project is completed, science and technology networks between home and abroad and personnel resources may be utilized much more efficiently. Currently, we strive to support the holding of academic conferences and organizing of academic societies at each of the foreign countries while ramping up the availability of gifted scientists and engineers via a U.S.-Korea Conference (UKC), Europe-Korea Conference (EKC), and Canada-Korea Conference (CKC).
We plans to expand the network of overseas ethnic Korean scientists and engineers’ associations to countries in the Southeast Asian region, including Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam while seeking to transfer Korea’s science and technology expertise °™ as one of the global top 10 economies °™ to the developing countries. The KOFST plans to brace for the reunification of the two Koreas by reinstating inter-Korean science and technology sessions via South Korean and North Korean science and technology societies if conditions mature.
We endeavor to step up collaboration, already in place with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) while seeking to strengthen cooperative ties with such bodies with similar functions and roles as the European Federation of National Engineering Associations (FEANI), the Japan Federation of Engineering Societies (JFES), and the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS).
Overseas ethnic Korean science and technology societies are gatherings designed to engage Korean scientists and engineers in active exchanges, cement solidarity between them, and contribute to the development of their motherland’s science, technology, industry, and economy and play leading roles in implementing the government’s globalization policies. We strive to play the role of a supporter of ethnic Korea scientists and engineers around the world while taking the lead in advancing the nation’s science and technology through systematic exchanges and cooperation among scientists and engineers at home and abroad.
Q: Will you introduce the “Sharing Community of Science and Technology (SCOST),” which was inaugurated last year with the aim of boosting scientists and engineers’ volunteering activities?
A: The SCOST was established in 2011 with the mission to enhance scientists and engineers’ social responsibility and enable them to return their tangible and intangible assets to society. The Korean science and technology community has so far received much support from the state and society. It is in this context that the government’s allocated 16 trillion won into its R&D outlay for the year 2012.
The SCOST is a volunteer program designed for scientists to donate money and goods, offer lectures, engage in volunteering activities, give counseling to youth and guidance to job seekers, and share diverse talents. A department in charge of related work has been established, a fund-raising expert has been recruited and support personnel and space have been dispatched and arranged. It is truly inspiring to see that nearly 50 organizations to have expressed their intention to participate in the program upon its launch.
Specifically, the SCOST will invigorate a program to encourage individual donations through a 10,000-won account, while implementing a one-on-one mentoring project linking youth in the agricultural and fisheries areas and professors to provide guidance on the former’s future careers. On top of receiving donations of money and goods, the SCOST will develop diverse programs for scientists to offer lectures and medical services, open their research labs for the general public for educational purposes, and share other things with people through science and technology.
Q: Will you elaborate on the KOFST’s mid- and long-term development plans?
A: The KOFST has so far mainly focused on the science and technology field as well as research institutions. Going forward, the KOFST will strive to establish itself as a full-fledged body of scientists and engineers in not only the basic science field, but also the industrial technology sector and related associations.
We will proactively participate in the government’s policy-making process in the science and technology fields while ramping up our capability to reflect the science and technology sector’s views in policy-setting. To this end, the KOFST began to increase Korean and foreign experts at its in-house policy research institute last year in order to conduct diverse policy projects.
We plan to consult with related authorities regarding a plan to open a graduate school-level course for fostering quality human resources in discipline of science and technology policy. The KOFST will endeavor to develop its 12 regional federations into regional science and technology promotion centers while accelerating the effort to expand infrastructure for each regional association, and to bring together and synergize each region’s scientists and engineers’ capacities.