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South Korea: Budget Cutbacks on Scientific Research
Last month, the South Korean Government proposed cutbacks and a restructuring of scientific funding. The science ministry said their goal is to create “innovative global top strategic research groups that can generate groundbreaking results”. The budget will restructure research and development funding from $23.4 billion to $16.2 billion. Basic research spending will be cut and shifting to new innovative priorities, including building rockets and biomedical research. The Health Ministry of South Korea announced two new schemes which aim to reverse the nations “not so impressive” record of biomedical research, remarked by former surgeon, Kyung Sun. Priority targets include accelerating vaccine development and reducing cancer rates. To improve research in South Korea, the ministry has formed the Global Research and Development Innovation Advisory Committee. It will be led by the Head of the Ministry’s Science and Technology Innovation Division, Joo Young-chang. This new committee will review systemic reform that reflects international trends and generate excellent national R&D results, focusing on global research collaboration and improvements in R&D evaluation management. Their activities commenced from 6 September. The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute were notified of a 29 percent reduction and a 23 percent cut for the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information and Institute of Chemical Technology are facing 28 percent reductions. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute, which led the successful launch of domestically developed space rockets, was informed of a 23 percent cut in government funding. Reception South Korea is a significant global science and technology research force, therefore the first scientific budget cuts in 33 years have shocked and disappointed the nation’s scientists. President Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration has been criticised for making a narrow-minded decision. A structural biologist at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Ji-Joon Song, said: “Without any discussions with scientists, they just suddenly changed the whole system [...] This is what makes scientists really upset, not just cutting the budget.” On 5 September, the inauguration of the Science and Technology Community Alliance Conference took place in Daejeon (the centre of research in South Korea). This was led by scientists associated with government-funded research institutes (facing massive cuts) and officials from the Ministry of Science and ICT. By joining forces, they hope that as a united group they will be able to influence governmental policies on research and development in the future. At this meeting, the Chair of the Science, Technology and Information Communication Department in the National Civil Servants Labour Union, Seong Ju-young, said: “The administration has audaciously trimmed the national R&D budget, neglecting the budgeting process protocols enshrined in the Basic Science and Technology Act. This has meant that around 30% of core project costs for science and technology institutions have been forcibly reduced.” Edited by: Anwen Venn
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