Academics urge gov’t to raise basic research share in R&D budget to 50%

2024.04.01 09:50:02

Park Sung-hyun이미지 확대

Park Sung-hyun



Seventeen South Korean scholars in the fields of humanities, social sciences, and science and technology recommended last week that the government should increase the share of basic research funding in its research and development (R&D) budget to 50 percent from the current level of 20 percent.

They advised that basic research funding should be expanded to the level seen in advanced countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

The advice was made in a report shared in a joint forum organized by the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Korea (NAS), the National Research Foundation of Korea, and Maeil Business Newspaper on Friday.

The 365-page report was authored by 17 individuals including Park Sung-hyun, director of NAS’s Natural Sciences Division and professor emeritus at Seoul National University, Kim Doh-yeon, professor emeritus at the same university, and Chong Song, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST).

The scholars evaluated that the government’s commitment to investing in basic research has weakened in recent years.

“In the past, the government established an investment strategy to raise the proportion of basic research in its R&D budget to 50 percent and improved the share of basic research, but this commitment has recently weakened,” Park said. “The importance of basic research cannot be emphasized enough, given our short history of basic research and the lack of a firm foundation.

He added that ”it is desirable for at least 30 percent of government R&D investment to be allocated to basic research moving forward.“

When it comes to traditional industries such as machinery and manufacturing, the scholars proposed reducing R&D investment.

They identified software and information and communication technology (ICT) as areas in which the government should gradually decrease its R&D investment.

The scholars also pointed out energy, resources, aerospace, and marine as areas that require a significant increase in government investment. They emphasized the need for an investment strategy led by the private sector, except for some specific areas, to be used in industries.

The scholars also criticized the government‘s R&D budget cuts for 2024.

”R&D is a critical factor for economic growth and national competitiveness, and Korea has seen a budget expansion of 9.43 percent over the past 20 years, the second-highest rate after China’s 15.7 percent,“ Park said. “The cuts will likely have a negative impact on supporting talented people and creative research in the long run.”

“If there were inefficiencies in the R&D budget, we can find and adjust them accordingly,” he said, noting that the government should restore its R&D budget for 2025 to the level of 31.1 trillion won ($23.1 billion) or more as seen in 2023.

By Ko Jae-won and Yoon Yeon-hae

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]