Happy new year 2022 to all IBS members.
We usher in the year of the Black Tiger (임인년, 壬寅年) with a mixture of anxiety and hope. A third year of the COVID-19 pandemic has loomed and we are still wearing masks today. I wish you nothing but good health and hope all your wishes come true. Hopefully by the end of this year we would have reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
As last year marked the 10th anniversary of IBS, we reflected on the last decade of our history. During the past 10 eventful years, IBS was born and went through a period of unprecedented growth and hardships. During our 10th year anniversary celebrations, I witnessed that IBS has been recognized as a rising basic science institute by the domestic and global scientific community and that IBS has the potential to make discoveries for humanity and society.
Outstanding researchers have come to IBS to pursue basic research on the universe, matter and life and many of our Research Centers began to be recognized as a globally leading group in their field. This was all made possible due to the dedication of our researchers and staff who have worked hard in their respective roles. The environment that surrounded IBS has not always been favorable, but we were able to overcome all the hardships thanks to your commitment and dedication. As the president of IBS, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all IBS members.
Today is an important day as we usher in the next decade of our history. Considering that the next 10 years will be a critical period for shaping the future of IBS and the nation’s basic science capabilities, I would like to set today as the starting point for a new leap forward as a truly leading research institute. IBS has declared itself to be the flagship institute for Korean science and a world’s leading basic science institute in 10 years. I would like to share with you today what tasks are ahead of us to achieve these two goals.
First, with the initial goal of forming 50 Research Centers by 2030, we need to start forming the second generation of Research Centers. We will launch more Research Centers in five areas: three areas of national strategic importance, quantum information science, climate and infectious diseases; and two areas that IBS currently focuses on, space and brain science. We will also find Research Centers to succeed the first generation of Research Centers.
People and talent are the most fundamental elements to IBS. We will recruit directors to lead Research Centers in two-tracks: world-class leaders and young researchers with great potential. This is a challenging task as the budget and talent pool situations have become more difficult compared to 10 years ago when we formed the first generation of Research Centers.
Second, we will enhance continuity and stability of IBS research units by forming Research Centers into clusters in full scale. The first research cluster, the Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics was launched by the end of last year. We will do our best for its successful operation and this research cluster system to be put in place firmly. By gaining traction in the first case, we will form another cluster in life science at Headquarters to strengthen their research capabilities.
IBS Research Center buildings at KAIST and POSTECH will be complete by the end of this year and we are planning to launch one research cluster at each KAIST and POSTECH. Clusters will add flexibility to our organizational structure and they will be operated to enhance synergies between each Center within an institute while ensuring their independence. This is similar to Max Planck Institutes and will allow us to have a flexible governance framework.
Third, we will continue to implement the institute system to Extramural Centers such that they are restructured into small but strong research institutes in universities. By changing the name “Extramural” and other necessary changes, we will ensure the completeness of our policy. The Extramural Research Center program is the embodiment of collaboration between IBS and research-oriented universities creating small, but strong research institutes housed in universities. This year, we are planning to form Extramural Research Centers not only in universities in the Seoul metropolitan area, but also in universities in other regions.
Fourth, we will establish the Heavy Ion Accelerator Research Institute as a research unit of IBS to complete the Rare Isotope Science Project and start operating the accelerator. From this year, when the first phase construction is complete, the Heavy Ion Accelerator Research Institute will consist of an operating unit that optimizes completed injecting, accelerating and experimental devices, and a project unit that will be responsible for completing the heavy ion accelerator project assigned by the government. Though the project has been delayed many times, the final goal has not been yet achieved within the deadlines and they are still working on tasks for beam production.
However, there have been some promising signs, particularly at the end of last year: the completion of low-energy experimental device and successful test operation of the ISOL method. More technical challenges lay ahead in every beam production stage of the project. In order for this project to move forward overcoming the technical challenges they encounter, all IBS members should show support and patience. Building the heavy ion accelerator is a significant task entailing highly sophisticated technical difficulties and challenges. The accelerator is essential for the nation’s basic science. Even if it takes additional time, we will exert our efforts to complete the project with the original goals of the project.
Fifth, together with Managing Director Choi, we will do our best for the Korea Virus Research Institute to be up and running in full scale. We will provide the Institute with necessary support in creating research infrastructure including its biosafety level 3 labs and of all, in hiring researchers. Currently, the Institute consists of two Research Centers, but we will do our best to have at least three Centers by 2023. In order for the Institute to be a focal point of the nation’s collaborative efforts in virus research and to produce high impact research outcomes, we will provide every support and closely work with our directors in life science.
Finally, as befitted the nation’s leading research institute, we propose to advance IBS so that it has a sustainable future, providing the kind of environment where all members work together toward a common goal while pursuing their personal growth and the development of IBS in balance. Last year, there had been some internal conflicts and many of us had difficulties concerning issues including the transition of irregular workers to regular. This year will also not be easy as tightened personnel costs and other difficult issues need to be resolved. Some of the issues are not easy to address as it is difficult to ensure long-term sustainability due to restrictions that come with being a government-funded research institution.
Nevertheless, we will not let differences and disagreements escalate into conflicts. We will communicate more and seek ways to find the most common denominators on both sides. We will create our organizational culture with the values of trust, harmony, and coexistence forming a strong foundation, and come up with an optimal direction for all members to work together. We may all have different ideas on the details of IBS’ operational plans, but we see eye to eye on the ultimate goal of realizing the vision of “Making Discoveries for Humanity and Society”.
As the former US President Bill Clinton said, “you need people whose goal it is to pull people together, not drive them apart”. I hope all IBS members bring wisdom to accept the differences of others and pool our strengths.
My fellow IBS members, we have come this far overcoming a number of crises over the past 10 years. It is true that 10 years is a very short time for a basic science research institute. Other world leading research institutes that IBS modeled have a history of over 100 years. Though IBS has shown unprecedented growth, the gap between them and us remains a gulf. It is the reality that we have to admit. On the other hand, it is something to be proud of in that IBS has contributed to the transition of South Korea’s status from “fast follower” to “first mover” and rewritten the history of basic science.
Today, on the first day of the next decade of IBS, I have shared our reaffirmed commitment for a new leap forward. Let us build upon our achievements so far and overcome the limitations we faced in order to make the next 10 years even better. Basic science is said to be a centennial plan, a fundamental cornerstone that has a profound impact for the nation and humanity. As we gradually build upon our efforts with a long-term mindset, the vision of “Making Discoveries for Humanity and Society” we envisioned will definitely come true. We are IBS.
Thank you and happy new year.
NOH Do Young
President of IBS