|Title||Nature Index 2020 says decisions on the Korea’s basic research flagship will point to national priorities.|
From basic to breakthrough: IBS, Korea’s answer to MPI and RIKEN
IBS, nation’s answer to MPI and RIKEN
In its May 28th issue, the journal Nature featured the 「Nature Index(NI) 2020 South Korea」. While looking to South Korea’s strategy to become a “first mover”, the journal featured IBS as the nation’s answer to Germany’s Max Planck Society and Japan’s RIKEN.
The special report demonstrated how a concentrated government push enabled South Korea to become an innovative leader as demonstrated by its fairly well maintained NI rankings. According to the NI 2020, South Korea has retained its positions in the top 10 countries in terms of high quality research papers. The country is seen to be faring better than most amidst a substantial and intensive research investment from China.
First to crack the genomic secret to a novel Coronavirus
Nature attributed Korea’s rapid and long-lasting economic and scientific transformation to its ‘top-down’ planning. Notably, as South Korea’s highest-profile investment in basic research, it featured IBS as a national vision to bring world’s top scientists and grant them full autonomy of research. The nation’s first basic science flagship has yielded quite significant triumphs. For instance, in March 2020, the IBS Center for RNA Research at Seoul National University became one of the first research groups in the world to sequence the transcriptome — the total product of all expressed genes — of the coronavirus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic (Cell, April 2020). Narry Kim, a biochemist and the center’s director, says the work required an interdisciplinary team of virologists, microbiologists and computational scientists, which was enabled by IBS’s steady support. “Without IBS funding, I don’t think it would have been possible,” she says.
Mutation correction, a discovery on the origin of the universe and of modern humans
IBS’ strong and stable support resulted in prominent scientific breakthroughs: IBS Center for Genome Engineering reported the correction of a disease-causing mutation in human embryos. The IBS scientists used the groundbreaking gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to repair the DNA piece that causes a common genetic heart disease, furthering medical advances. (Nature, August 2017). As for research that has contributed to creating new knowledge of humanity, the IBS Center for Underground Physics reported data that significantly challenged the long-standing claim of dark-matter induced events. The COSINE-100 Experiment built a detector with enough sensitivity to require a new dark-matter model, bringing the world closer to discovering the origin of the universe. (Nature, December 2018). Also, the IBS Center for Climate Physics (ICCP) pinpointed the birthplace of modern humans (Nature, October 2019).
From basic to breakthrough
In fewer than 10 years, IBS has evolved from an idea to a multi-disciplinary web of 30 research centers. In the 2020 NI Annual Tables, IBS ranked as the number 1 national institution and within the top 20 of global government institutions.
2020, marks a turning point for IBS and South Korea
The special report notes that South Korean science is at a critical point as the first eight IBS centers are up for review to continue beyond the year 2020. It describes this landmark decision will also shape the national scientific landscape: whether the country will continue to push its pledge to become a “first mover”. Andreas Heinrich, director of the IBS Center for Quantum Nanoscience in Seoul says, “I like that pressure.” He adds, “If I cannot build a top-class research center in eight years, either I’m not the right person for the job, or it’s not possible in that environment.”