Viet Nam News
Ngô Việt Trung of the Institute of Mathematics under the Việt Nam Academy of Science and Technology tells Khoa học & Đời sống (Science and Life) that funds allotted for sci-tech development need to be used wisely
How would you evaluate our current scientific capacity?
I have only worked in basic science, and can’t comment on applied science.
As far as basic science is concerned, I can say that we match international standards, particularly in mathematics, physics, material sciences and biology. But many people do not know this and complain that Vietnamese scientists have not contributed much to national development. To a certain extent, this is true. The work of scientists have not been applied directly in real life, for instance in producing this or that machine, a production chain and things like that.
If research results are not applied in real life, what’s the role of basic science?
Basic science is the foundation for all scientific fields. No technological innovation is possible without a proper grounding in the basic sciences which are needed to make the necessary calculations.
To develop on our own, we need a strong research foundation in the basic sciences. A very simple example is network security in telecommunications or other technologies. We have to do this ourselves.
In the scientific field, can one person work alone?
To come up with a technological product with a famous trademark like Samsung or Apple, a lot of people have to work in a co-ordinated fashion. I don’t think a single scientist can do it by himself or herself. In fact, such things cannot come out of a single discipline, even. It requires great efforts from different scientific disciplines. So, in such a process, each scientist is a link in a chain.
I understand that the Samsung Electronic Corporation is a big sponsor of developing the science of mathematics. They have paid a lot of attention to basic science research, and this is the foundation for them to develop.
Do you have any comments on the current financial mechanism being applied to the scientific sector in Việt Nam?
I can say that the Government’s policy toward science and technology development has improved a lot. But obstacles remain, particularly those related to financial issues. For example, the Việt Nam Institute for Advanced Study In Mathematics (VIASM) was founded five years ago, and it has enjoyed a special financial policy. The monthly salary for a mathematician working in the institute is 10-15 times that of the basic salary for an ordinary public employee. But what will happen when that special policy is no longer in force? For the VIASM, this is an open question without an answer right now.
Which job do you find easier? A scientist or a manager?
In science, there is no concept of a scientist or a manager. A scientist is a person who works in science, or to conduct a study and solve problems arising in daily life. It is not an administrative system. So I don’t see any logic in saying one job is easier than the other.
In my opinion, when we talk about the development of science and technology, the supporting staff, here I mean people who don’t actually take part in research, should facilitate conditions for scientists to perform their tasks or missions.
Quite a few Vietnamese young scientists returning from abroad hoping to work for the country leave again after working here for some time. Can you comment on this?
I have thought about this problem a lot. Whether one is a scientist or an ordinary person, he or she has to live. If scientists cannot live on their monthly salary, they have to find other jobs to earn more money to meet their living needs. Not all people can be trained to be scientists. That’s why the Government should have special policies for them and give them a good working environment. The majority of our scientists want to devote their hearts and minds for the development of the nation. But they’re all human beings with their own families to take care of. They want to work in decent working conditions and their achievements to be properly valued.
My understanding is that the Government has annually allocated 2 per cent of the State budget for science and technology development. Of course, this sum of money is big for our country, but it has not actually helped much in helping the science and technology sector achieve major breakthroughs.
Under our current budget law, the ministry can use only 10 per cent of the total budget disbursed for it from the State budget on science and technology activities. The other 80 per cent has to be disbursed to other ministries and localities for them to do their scientific and technological research.
Due to poor co-ordination on research topics between the central and local levels, quite a lot of work is duplicated. In other words, quite a lot of tax payers’ money is not used efficiently. It is high time that we use the people’s money wisely for the country’s development. — VNS