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AAAS, Vietnam Officials Forge New Partnerships in Science, Innovation, and Education
AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner; Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) Officer Nguyen Tuyet Ngan (acting as translator), and MoST Vice Minister Tran Quoc Thang meet at the Ministry of Science and Technology
At top-level meetings in Vietnam this fall, AAAS officials pledged to work with the country's science and technology leaders in guiding new research and education initiatives, including Vietnam's first investigator-driven, peer-reviewed funding agency.
The meetings took place as AAAS organized a region-wide symposium on connecting research and innovation for policymakers, held under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The symposium was AAAS's first joint effort with Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology after signing an agreement with the ministry earlier this year.
At the 10-11 September APEC symposium sessions with Vietnam's National Institute of Science and Technology Policy and Strategy Studies, the participants discussed ways to bridge the gap between the research and commercial sectors of the rapidly growing APEC economies.
"More and more countries are recognizing the close relationship between the strength of a nation's scientific infrastructure, its innovativeness, and the strength of its economy," said AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner in his opening remarks at the APEC symposium. "Therefore we are pleased, but not really surprised, by the increasing investment by both northern and southern economies in developing their science capacity."
"The APEC workshop was a great opportunity for us to advance the mission of AAAS by reaching out to multiple countries in southeast Asia that have recognized the importance of science in furthering societal needs," said Edward Derrick, director of AAAS's Research Competitiveness Program.
The Research Competitiveness Program was established in 1996 to promote innovation and research initiatives at universities, government agencies and other institutions within the United States, but projects such as the National Institute collaboration have become more frequent as "competitiveness has become an increasingly international exercise," noted Mark Milutinovich, a senior associate for the program.
In a region dominated by China's burgeoning economy, competition will be a key aspect of Vietnam's economic growth, which is expected to jump by 8.5% in 2008. "Vietnam has a population the size of Germany, so it's not a small player," said Tom Wang, AAAS director for international cooperation. "Given its rate of growth, and how dynamic their economy is, it's a good place to see that they are prioritizing science and education."
Building on cooperative efforts that AAAS has pursued with Vietnam since 2006, Leshner met with several top officials in Hanoi, including Tran Quoc Thang, deputy minister of science and technology; Chu Tun Nh, chairman of the Vietnam National Council for S&T Policy; Tran Van Nhung, vice minister of education and training; Chau Van Minh, president of Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology; and Phan Hong Son, director of the new Vietnam Science & Technology Development Foundation.
With an initial budget of US$13 million, the new foundation is Vietnam's first science agency to fund individual investigators through peer-reviewed grants, much like the United States' National Science Foundation, said Wang. He noted that AAAS has offered advice and input to the foundation "as they set up their procedures and operations of peer review" before making their first call for proposals by the end of the year.
The country's swift economic development has also focused attention on science education programs and the need for greater public understanding of science. In meetings at the Ministry of Education and Training, Leshner and others discussed the work of Project 2061, AAAS's pioneering science literacy initiative. "They were very interested in the materials and research that 2061 has generated over the years, so that's another area where we can support their efforts by providing resources to the country," said Wang.
The AAAS delegation to Vietnam included Leshner, Wang, Derrick, Milutinovich and AAAS Chief International Officer Vaughan Turekian.
11 November 2008