Joint Executive Office for Institutes of Science and Technology Working to Create Synergy in Education and Research between Institutes

Dec 09, 2019

It has been six months since ‘a joint executive office for institutes of science and technology’, which was established to unify abilities of four institutes of science and technology such as KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), GIST (Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology), DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology), and UNIST (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology). Although there are some that have doubts about the joint executive office’s effectiveness, others are interested on its potential roles as it is carrying outs its roles and is also finding its roles in various areas. It can have a huge impact on drawing visions of institutes of science and technology directly and indirectly.
Current system for institutes of science and technology has few limitations. Although KAIST has played a huge role in developing South Korea’s scientific technologies and talented individuals for the future since its establishment in 1971, there needs to be an improvement in order for KAIST to achieve a bigger growth.
Quantitative scale of KAIST’s history is seen as a limitation especially. KAIST was only established 50 years ago and it has only produced about 50,000 graduate students with a master’s degree or a Doctor’s degree. As a result, it is struggling to raise its awareness globally.
Current system also cannot produce qualitative research with high efficiency. All four institutes share many same areas and do not have many areas that are specialized for each institute. For example, chemistry is seen as the main research field for all four institutes. All four institutes have produced the most research papers in the field of chemistry. Percentage of research papers in chemistry that were written between 2014 and 2018 is higher than 20% for each institute.
Joint executive office was established to shift such issue towards a positive direction. By establishing a collaborative system between the institutes, it is going to offset weaknesses that can occur due to lack of history or awareness of the institutes and create synergy in ineffective areas by turning them into areas for collaboration. It is also going to prepare ways to innovate how institutes are operated.
“Although the institutes are facing various challenges, we can overcome limitations if we can come up with new innovations by joining forces.” said Director Kim Bo-won of the joint executive office. “The office will play a key role in combining abilities of the four institutes and drawing innovations.”
◊Joint executive office to create synergy between the institutes
Since the establishment, the main task of the office has been creating synergy between the institutes. Although the institutes are physically separated each other, the office’s plan has been establishing a system between the institutes so that they can have a close relationship and creating an economy of scale.
The office started the process with research first. It planned a ‘joint research project’ that has research teams from at least two institutes participating. It already appropriated an appropriate amount of budget into a government bill and it has prepared a framework for the project to start immediately.
The project focuses on solving current issues within the society and it will focus on issues such as fine dust and fine plastic in 2020.
The office is also looking for new ways for institutes to collaborate in education. One example is creating a lecture where students from all four institutes attend at the same time. Although the office has yet to prepare any specifics, it is currently considering a social science lecture of KAIST to be heard from GIST, DGIST, and UNIST as well. Key is to have lectures and discussions at the same time through two-way communications.
Besides these, the office is also pushing for a library portal called ‘Star Library’ and a comprehensive information service for professors and it is going to work on joint actions towards various pending issues related to the institutes. It has supported restructuring of the research staff system that had recently caused a controversy and mediation of systems related to STIPEND system.
Its effort to create synergy between the institutes is also drawing positive evaluations outside of the institutes.
“We believe that the four institutes will be able to bring back their values if they are able to join forces through the joint executive office.” said Heo Jae-yong who is the head of Ministry of Science and ICT’s Future-Oriented Human Resources Cultivation Section. “South Korean Government appropriated $3.37 million (4 billion KRW) into the next year’s budget plan for this project.”

Participants of the inauguration ceremony of a joint executive office for institutes of science and technology are cutting a celebratory cake.  Starting from the left: Administrator Han Sang-cheol of DGIST’s Planning Affairs, President Jung Moo-young of UNIST, President Kuk Yang of DGIST, President Shin Sung-cheol of KAIST, President Kim Kise-on of GIST, Director Koo Hyeok-chae of Ministry of Science and ICT’s Bureau of Policy for Future-Oriented Human Resources, Administrator Kim Bo-won of KAIST’s Planning Affairs, Administrator Kim Joon-ha of GIST’s Planning Affairs <Participants of the inauguration ceremony of a joint executive office for institutes of science and technology are cutting a celebratory cake. Starting from the left: Administrator Han Sang-cheol of DGIST’s Planning Affairs, President Jung Moo-young of UNIST, President Kuk Yang of DGIST, President Shin Sung-cheol of KAIST, President Kim Kise-on of GIST, Director Koo Hyeok-chae of Ministry of Science and ICT’s Bureau of Policy for Future-Oriented Human Resources, Administrator Kim Bo-won of KAIST’s Planning Affairs, Administrator Kim Joon-ha of GIST’s Planning Affairs>

◊Joint executive office to play a key role in establishing innovative plans
Joint executive office is also playing a key role in preparing innovative plans for the institutes and it is primary focusing on preparing ways for the institutes to rebound.
Key is to apply innovations throughout entire systems of the institutes such as education, research, and operation. ‘Institute of Science and Technology Strategic Committee’, which is made up of 11 members, was established through support from South Korean Government and it is currently operated under the joint executive office.
The office has been working on ways to innovate various systems since October. It launched a kickoff meeting started on the 8th of October and it prepared a ‘strategic report on institutes of science and technology’ draft on the 25th of November. It has been gathering opinions by visiting each institute since the 28th and it is expected to finalize the report by end of this year.
The report is expected to have various innovative ways centered on research and educational innovation and social contribution. It is also expected that the report will suggest several goals to help the institutes or major fields of the institutes to become the world-class level.
“We are currently preparing plans for major directions that will expand strengths of each institute and supplement weaknesses of each institute.” said Director Seo Pan-gil (Director of Korea Brain Research Institute) of Institute of Science and Technology’s Strategic Committee. “We are planning to come up with a more detailed plan soon and we hope that the plan will play a huge role in helping develop the four institutes and improve competitive edge of South Korea for the future.”
◊Future of joint executive office and four institutes
Joint executive office can also affect how systems of the four institutes will change in the future. This is also the reason why some are suspicious that the establishment of the office is a sign for ‘unification of the four institutes.
Unification has not even been talked about or is there a plan for one. However, there is a chance for other new possibilities as the office continues to expand its territory and work to innovate various systems.
UC (University of California) system can be an example. While universities such as UCLA and UC Berkeley that are part of the UC system maintain their independence, they all look for ways to develop together in various fields under the UC system. Some say the four institutes can emulate such system. While they maintain their independence, they can double the amount of synergy created by the office through meetings between the presidents of the institutes and mutual policies.
“If joint executive office is able to create many positive results and develop a consensus throughout the institutes, there is a chance that the four institutes can talk about new possibilities such as the UC system in the future.” said Director Kim Sang-seon of Korea Institute of Science & Technology Evaluation and Planning. “However, such possibilities will require significant considerations and careful approach.”
Staff Reporter Kim, Youngjoon | kyj85@etnews.com

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