NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr., spoke at an international symposium in Seoul, Korea, marking the 30th anniversary of the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation. The following is from coverage in the Korean media.
Pioneering Uncharted Territory Is Impossible When You Only Seek Research Guaranteeing Positive Results
Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation participated in an international symposium in Seoul.
By Reporter Kim Hee-won
June 15, 2007, Page 25
"The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) provides assistance in research & development (R&D) with a commitment to defending the frontiers of science. If we retreat from the frontier, the future of scientific technology itself will be in danger." Arden. L. Bement, Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation, a federal agency with an annual budget of $6 billion that funds federally supported research, held a press availability at the Westin Chosun Hotel in Seoul on June 14, where he participated in an international symposium held to mark the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation. During the press availability, he said, "It is the government's job to pioneer uncharted territory in supporting science."
He noted, "If you do not take risks, you cannot pioneer new sectors," adding, "The NSF's support is not limited to research which guarantee high-confidence results. The organization also provides 5% of its budget to support 'risky' research."
The USG has no separate agency dedicated to taking charge of science and technology. Instead, each department takes care of R&D on specific topics, and the NSF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) fund basic research conducted by the U.S.'s colleges and universities.
Mr. Bement said, "It is difficult to prioritize research in basic science, since you never know when and what results will be obtained from the research." He went on to say, "The NSF evaluates research while it is still ongoing and also consistently educates researchers. We cannot expect immediate outcome from basic science." Placing less focus on research that guarantees positive results also means an increased chance to discover something new, which means a lot to the ROKG, which has adopted a strategy of "choice and focus" in R&D.
The director of the U.S. organization added, "In the past, it normally took 20 years from creating a concept to achieving a practical outcome in a research (project). Now, the period has been shortened to ten years, or even 3-5 years in some cases, indicating that efficiency in research has improved."
Just as in the ROK, not many American students choose to study science and engineering, which are difficult to learn and do not guarantee good financial rewards. To solve the problem, the NSF is turning its attention to elementary education. He said, "In order to increase people's interest in science, engineering and mathematics, we are looking for ways to make kids become more interested in science even before they enter kindergarten or elementary school."
He also said, "International cooperation in R&D is increasingly important in the global environment. The U.S. also seeks global cooperation, not as a sole leader, but as one of the leaders in the world." He added, "Rather than paying attention only to an immediate outcome, we should put the focus on a final outcome, such as how the outcome will change society or affect business activities."
NSF Director Expecting the ROK to Lead International Cooperation with Its Advanced Science and Technology
June 15, 2007, Page 30
Arden Bement, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), stated yesterday, "International cooperation in science and education is not a luxury but a necessity, and it is also the foundation for all of our futures. I expect that the ROK will continue to take the lead in forming a new paradigm of international cooperation by maintaining its superiority in science and technology and investing in education focused on creativity and innovation."
He stressed the need for international cooperation in science and technology research, saying, "In the knowledge-based society of the 21st century, you can compete when you cooperate."
He also said, "Research and Development (R&D), education, and investment in infrastructure are three pivots of global economic growth, and every country is making huge investments in these three sectors. Rather than paying attention to an immediate outcome, however, we should put the focus on a final outcome, such as how [the three sectors] change society or affect business activities."
"We should have a balanced viewpoint on global issues like the environment and energy, and we also need to shift the concept of what is true technological superiority and economic leadership," he added. "Unless we push back the frontiers via cooperation, modern science and technology will be left behind."
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