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How countries are nurturing Basic Science research Updated: 2016-10-31 18:11:48 KST


To make something grow, you need the right environment.
For Britain, Japan and the United States, three leading countries in Basic Science, strong institutions and universities provided the funding and the infrastructure to produce groundbreaking research.
Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for his research on the structure and function of the ribosome.
He benefited from supportive research environments in the U.S. and the UK.


"Both countries have been open to international talent. Theyre very open societies that try to attract the best from the world -- The second aspect is diversity of funding in the UK. So we have many different kinds of research enterprises. , We have Governments labs, research institutes, university departments and private."

Dr. Ramakrishnan says this helps attract a pool of talent from all over the world which feeds a virtuous cycle of producing world-class research.

Another core element is giving scientists more control over their fields of research, rather than governments taking a top-down approach.
The Haldane principle in the UK allows scientists themselves to specify research policies and the direction of government funding through separate councils and institutions.


"We also have another stream which comes directly from the government and is given out very broadly, it's kind of core funding which underlines the research infrastructure. It gives universities a bit more flexibility. You can then carry out research which is maybe not something for a specific grant but more blue skies research or a personal idea."

Another important factor is long-termism. In all three countries, those eureka moments took decades of research and investment.
The UK has a long history of world-changing ideas and discoveries, such as Isaac Newton's Law of Gravity and Michael Faraday's Law of Induction.
The U.S. and Japan have been investing at least two percent of their GDP in research and development since the 1970s, decades ahead of emerging economies like Korea which surpassed the two percent mark in the 1990s.


"Japan made a lot of long-term investments in basic science during the 60s and 70s during its rapid economic development. Working with Japanese scientists and mathemeticians, I noticed their strong dedication to researching over a lifetime. So they're reaping the results of that right now through Nobel Prizes."

Professor Adam Riess won the Nobel Prize in Physics in five years ago when he discovered that the expansion of the universe was accelerating.
He says research should be driven by the thirst for knowledge, not for short-term, commercial ends.


"I think putting the requirement on our curiosity to producing something moneymaking really limits our investigations in ways that dont allow us to reach as deep. For instance, in 1917, when Albert Einstein was working on general relativity, a new theory of gravity, there was no way he could have imagined this would lead to GPS and our ability to find our place anywhere on the planet."

Groundbreaking discoveries and innovations require going back to basics. For Adam Riess, and many eminent scientists throughout history, that begins with nurturing the simple instinct of curiosity.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.
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