Is the R&D budget cut ‘researchers’ responsibility’? The government’s ‘original sin’ of overusing impunity policies

President Yong said, “R&D efficiency is a huge force that will make Korea leap forward.”
While emphasizing the responsibility of researchers, the government's responsibility is 'never known', a deep-rooted trap of 'suppression'
“The frame of ‘follower of developed countries’ still persists, don’t think you’ll get lucky”
President Yoon Seok-yeol/Photo = Presidential Office

President Yoon Seok-yeol emphasized the efficiency of the R&D budget and once again mentioned U.S. President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was the person who decided to land the first man on the moon in 1962. The fact that President Yoon mentioned Kennedy while visiting the scientific community, which has become apathetic due to R&D budget cuts this year, is interpreted as an attempt to emphasize the need to transform the existing R&D inertia of following advanced countries into challenging and leading R&D.

President Kennedy was repeatedly summoned, and his true intentions were

On the morning of the 5th, President Yoon visited the ‘2024 New Year’s Greetings for Scientists, Technicians and Information, Broadcasting and Communications Professionals’ held at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, and said, “I and the government will do our best to support you so that you can dream and take on challenges to your heart’s content.” “He said. He continued, “President Kennedy said that we need people who can dream of things that do not exist,” and emphasized, “Your dreams and your challenges are the power that will make our country leap forward.”

Previously, President Yoon also mentioned President Kennedy during a meeting with civilian members of the National Science and Technology Advisory Council in November of last year. At the time, President Yoon said, “There are many achievements of President Kennedy, but the creation of the Moonshot Project is ‘the greatest achievement that will be remembered forever.’” Moonshot is a plan in which the United States declares that it will build a lunar probe instead of increasing the performance of telescopes to view the moon. President Yoon has expressed respect for the pioneering spirit of President Kennedy, who created scientific progress and innovation with strong determination.

However, the scientific community continues to cast doubt on President Yoon. This is because this year’s R&D budget was cut by 4 trillion won (6,000%) compared to last year, leaving only around 14.8 trillion won. This is the first time in 26 years since 5,000 that the R&D budget has been cut, and in particular, the budget cut of trillions of won is an unprecedented situation in the scientific community. In this process, President Yoon received strong opposition from the scientific community because the Ministry of Science and ICT, the responsible ministry, failed to communicate with the field the need for R&D system reform and budget cuts. The reason why President Yoon visited the New Year’s greetings on this day, as he did last year, is interpreted to be to ask for understanding from the science and technology community and to mention the need for institutional reform. In fact, as the problem intensified due to lack of R&D communication, President Yoon proposed a measure to establish a new Office of Senior Secretary for Science and Technology under the Presidential Office. On this day, he also re-announced his plan to establish a senior office for science and technology and announced that he would increase communication.

Touting increased efficiency, “Isn’t it a loss of fluid?”

The ultimate goal of President Yoon’s R&D budget cuts is to increase efficiency. In relation to this, Minister of Science and ICT Lee Jong-ho said, “It is true that there have been cases where the R&D budget was used inefficiently, such as sharing R&D, distributing small and short-term projects, and R&D planning with an owner,” and added, “We must eliminate old practices and inefficiencies and build the best He expressed President Yoon’s position, saying, “It is time to strive to create a healthy science and technology ecosystem that conducts high-quality R&D and R&D.” “Compared to the quantitative growth of the R&D budget, criticism has been raised even within the science and technology community that structural reform for qualitative growth is still insufficient.” He added, “We will resolve this so that it does not happen.”

However, the reaction from the science and technology community is that it is somewhat absurd. Although the government is clearly responsible for the R&D budget not being used efficiently in the first place, there are many criticisms that place all responsibility on the science and technology community. In particular, there is a lot of criticism about the ‘practice of splitting R&D budgets’ and ‘abuse of unfair profits by those with vested interests in science and technology’ claimed by the President’s Office. Regarding this, a researcher said, “If an interest cartel is actually formed, this is serious collusion and should be ruled out,” adding, “However, the government is only treating the science and technology community that received government research funds as if they are criminals.” “How can the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Science, Technology and Innovation Center, which allocated the budget for splitting and sharing, not even agree on one thing?” he quipped. “The Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups, which spend the largest portion of the government’s R&D budget, also remained silent,” he said, adding, “Isn’t this actually a departure from the government’s vested interests?”


The government strengthens criticism of R&D, is there no ‘government responsibility’?

The government also cut the budget for funded research institutes. It is a decision based on the critical view that the government-funded research institute is not doing its job and wasting its budget. However, what must be clearly pointed out is that the government is the direct operator of the government-funded research institute. If a government-funded research institute fails, the government cannot help but be responsible for failing to give it its proper mission and only controlling its budget and manpower. Reducing the R&D budget and reforming government-funded research institutes will certainly be necessary measures. This is acknowledged by people inside the government-funded research institute and the science and technology community. However, there are quite a few people who are angry at the cowardice of the government, which does not do its job and passes responsibility on to others, and it is a shame.

Ultimately, there are strong voices calling for a reform of the national R&D structure itself at the government level. The current government criticizes R&D by saying, “Researchers are only trying to ‘do research that can be done’ with government research funds,” but it cannot be said that it is unconditionally the researcher’s fault for giving up challenging research in an environment where failure must result in disadvantages. . In the first place, the government created a system to only conduct ‘research that can be done’, but is only pressuring researchers who do not want to do it.

In the past, when Korea was at the height of its development, the method that Korea mainly adopted was to send personnel to other advanced countries to learn technology. By training Korean scientists overseas, our country was able to lay the foundation for success. However, these days, all the technologies worth learning have already been learned, and technology protectionism has strengthened recently, making it difficult to import technology from other countries. Now, what is important for our country’s development is none other than the development of independent technology. However, the government’s perception is still stuck in the past. This means that in an era where a certain level of performance must be achieved through appropriate investment, we are just waiting for the spring to emerge. It is time to recognize the original sin of avoiding responsibility that lies behind R&D budget cuts and throw away the deep-rooted frame of being a follower of advanced countries.

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