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Tran Quoc Thang, Vietnam's Vice Minister of S&T, Holds Talks at AAAS
Tran Quoc Thang, Alan Leshner and Vaughan Turekian
With Vietnam in the midst of an aggressive effort to develop a robust science and technology infrastructure, the vice minister of that nation's Ministry of Science and Technology visited AAAS on 14 December to discuss his science priorities and possible areas of cooperation with AAAS and the American scientific community.
Tran Quoc Thang's visit came shortly after Vietnam hosted leaders from some of the world's most powerful economies—including China, Japan and the United States—during an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Hanoi in November. Vietnam's impending entry into the World Trade Organization also is placing a spotlight on its plans for technology-driven economic growth.
Thang met with Alan I. Leshner, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the journal Science, Vaughan Turekian, the AAAS chief international officer, and Tom Wang, director for international cooperation. He was accompanied by Le Thanh Binh, deputy director of the ministry's Department of International Cooperation.
It was the second visit to AAAS this year by high-level Vietnamese officials. On 9 May, a delegation from the National Assembly of Vietnam visited to discuss efforts to develop a legal framework that encourages the growth of science and technology. Vietnam has been liberalizing its economy for two decades, with high growth rates in recent years. It has been courting outside help in expanding it science and technology base.
Vietnam informed the World Trade Organization on 12 December that it had ratified its membership agreement. It will become the WTO's 150th member on 11 January 2007. In gaining membership in the WTO, Vietnam agreed to pursue broad-based economic reforms and open its markets to more foreign goods and services.
When Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, visited Vietnam earlier this year, he pledged that his company would invest in Vietnam and predicted that information technology would help the country become one of the Asian "miracle" economies within a decade. Intel, another U.S. technology giant, announced earlier this year that it would invest $1 billion to build a large microchip factory outside Ho Chi Minh City. It is expected to begin operations in 2009 and could employ up to 4,000 workers.
Thang said Vietnam has four priority areas for science and technology development: biotechnology; information and communications technology; materials and nanotechnology; and automation engineering. One goal, he said, is to establish research teams with scientists from both Vietnam and abroad, using research facilities both in the United States and in Vietnam.
Vietnam must increase the size of its science and engineering work force, Thang said, while building more research facilities. He also stressed the need to ease commercialization of R&D through stronger ties between academic and industrial scientists.
Thang urged AAAS to help get the word out to scientists in the United States about his nation's interest in research partners and outside investment.
Turekian said steps are being undertaken to establish Internet links between scientists in the United States and students in Vietnamese science universities. American researchers will be able to provide copies of their key publications to the students and respond to their questions. The Vietnamese students also will be able to send copies of their papers to professors in the United States for comment.
Leshner and Turekian said AAAS also has access to a wide network of specialists and could help get them in contact with colleagues in Vietnam.
Thang asked whether AAAS might consider supporting a forum in Vietnam where local scientists and their American counterparts could discuss issues of mutual interest. Leshner offered that AAAS could organize such a meeting and help the Vietnamese find sources of support to help pay for it.
Turekian traveled to Vietnam earlier this year, and Thang invited Leshner to visit as well. Thang's visit to Washington also included stops at the U.S. State Department, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.
26 December 2006