The need to replicate the evaluation process of the Ta Quang Buu Prize

With international standard research projects, two scientists, Assoc. Prof Dr. Nguyen Sum (Faculty of Mathematics, Quy Nhon University), Prof. Dr. Phan Thanh Son Nam (Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City) was awarded the 2017 Ta Quang Buu Prize hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngoc Anh presented the Prize to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Sum, Prof. Dr. Phan Thanh Son Nam

The Ta Quang Buu prize ceremony took place in the morning of May 18th 2017 in Hanoi. Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam; Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngoc Anh; Chairman of the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment congress Phan Xuan Dung attended.

The desire to replicate the way of investing in science such as NAFOSTED regulations

This year, the two prize winning scientists, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Sum and Prof. Dr. Phan Thanh Son Nam stepped on the podium to receive the Prize when was carrying the thoughts and concerns from daily work and the difficulties they have experienced.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Sum emphasized the role of NAFOSTED for basic researchers like him, “Thanks to the NAFOSTED’s support with transparent, democratic and fair evaluating mechanism, along with the rigorous assessment and high requirements for the quality of our results that have helped me and my colleagues carry out the most serious research”. It was the innovation in the method of funding basic research became one of the motivations that helped him to “come back to be scientific researcher after a long time working as scientific manager”.

The attempt by Ministry of Science and Technology to “pave the way” for basic research has encouraged scientists to promote the spirit of innovation in research, and contribute to the increasing number of ISI publications of Vietnam scientific community. However, at present, there is a persistent thought that the investment in applied sciences should be prioritized. As a long-time researcher, Prof. Dr. Phan Thanh Son Nam has given his thoughts on the relationship between basic science and applied science. He said that although applied research was important, but “certainly basic research is paramount and it has the mission to create new knowledge for humanity. It must have a solid basic science to be able to bring applied science to a new level”. Therefore, investing in basic science is very necessary for Vietnam today.

Taking an example of himself, Prof. Dr. Phan Thanh Son Nam said that he was depressed when he encountered many difficulties at the first return to Vietnam in 2006. Because at that time, there were not many necessary and pratical investment policies carried out for basic research. Only after the establishment of the NAFOSTED, as well as the attention and investment of scientific management agencies, he did have the opportunity to “relive his passion” for research four years later.

However, he realized that at present, Vietnam science still has some shortcomings such as the investment in science such as NAFOSTED regulation has not been replicated to many levels and many branches of scientific management; financial mechanisms and administrative procedures in managing scientific research projects are still cumbersome; the evaluation of the performance of scientists, research groups and scientific research organizations is still not up to international standards. These shortcomings are the reasons that do not encourage the creativity of scientists nor promote the development of Vietnam science.

The need of transparency in scientific management

After listening to the sharing of scientists, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said that it is necessary to have effective ways to make the investment in science more efficient. Referring to the transparent and fair evaluation process of the Ta Quang Buu Prize Council, the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that it should seek a way to apply the process of this Prize into scientific management and investment budget allocation in science, “one of the things that needs to be done is all the processes must be publicity and transparency”. He mentioned a proposal was submitted to Ministry of Science and Technology many years ago that publicity transparency was needed at the beginning when a project was formed, in the implementation of project, the peer review’s process and to the end when project’s achievements were published. The results of publicity and transparency in scientific management are the sharing and disseminating excellent research’s results in society, in enterprises. And in cases if the research isn’t good and practical enough, society can also identify and give feedback. By doing so, the general awareness of society about science and technology as well as the impact of science on the new economic and social life will be increase.

Also referring to the role of science and technology in the country’s development, the Deputy Prime Minister said that the mision of scientific management agencies and scientists is to disseminate the necessary scientific and technological knowledge for improving the the life of ordinary people, making daily work more effective through the tools created by science and technology.

He said that many of the application tools from the top scientific research projects have exerted strength in life, for example “artificial intelligence sounds very sublime but one of the tools [of artificial intelligence] is the voice processing has been applied … Now young scientists who have created applications just use the voice with a smartphone to ask directions … so, if we can apply that tool for common knowledge such as health care, crop and how great it can be… “.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, one of the opportunities for Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Vietnam science community in the near future is the implementation of the “Digitalized Vietnamese Knowledge System” project, which has just been approved by the Government. The effective exploitation of achievements, knowledge and practical application into the daily life will be the task of Vietnamese scientists.

The scientific works on an international level

Maintaining the selection criteria are “honoring scientists who are actively engaged in scientific activities and have played a key role in a single scientific work published over the past five years” and fairness and equality in evaluation as stated by Prof. Dr. Dinh Dung, Vice Chairman of the Prize organization committee, The 2017 Ta Quang Buu Prize was presented to two scientists with outstanding research projects in the field of natural sciences and engineering: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Sum with the article “On the Peterson hit problem” published in Advances in Mathematics journal,2015 and Prof. Dr. Phan Thanh Son Nam with the article “Propargylamine synthesis via sequential methylation and C-H functionalization of N-methylanilines and terminal alkynes under metal-organic-framework Cu2 (BDC) 2 (DABCO) catalysis” published in Journal of Catalysis.

Prof. Dr. Dinh Dung commented, these were all scientific works at international level and completely implemented in Vietnam. “It did prove that basic research in the field of natural sciences and engineering in our country is moving fast on the road towards international level”.