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[Leaders' Column] Think Tank Needs to Build a National Research System

BY :Mi Ock Mun DATE :2022-06-13 HIT :7,206

Think tanks are intellectual groups whose main purpose is research and play a role in presenting and asserting policy opinions. In Korea, institutions that provide research support for the main purpose of funding from the national budget are prescribed by law. The central government divides the national think tanks into the National Research Council for Economics, Humanities and Social Sciences(NRC) and the National Research Council of Science & Technology(NST), and operates 26 and 25 research institutes, respectively. The National Research Council for Economics, Humanities and Social Sciences(NRC) with 26 related research institutes are based on the 'Act on the Establishment, Operation, and Fostering of Government-Funded Research Institutions,' and the National Research Council of Science & Technology(NST), with 25 research institutes are based on the ‘Act on the Establishment, Operation, and Fostering of Government-Funded Research Institutions in the Science and Technology Field’. And for regional development, 14 research institutes have been established in each region as think tanks in accordance with the ‘Act on the Establishment and Operation of Local Government-Funded Researchers.’ The number of think tanks will increase in the future as cities with a population of 500,000 or more will be able to create regional research institutes. If including private research think tanks run by universities, companies, and organizations, the scale is even larger. The purpose of the central government to establish, support, and foster national think tanks is to build an effective national research system or a national science and technology innovation system.

First, the national science and technology innovation system is specified in Article 6 of the Framework Act on Science and Technology (Establishment of the National Science and Technology Innovation System) for the government to support businesses, educational institutions, research institutes, and science and technology-related organizations and groups to actively carry out activities to innovate science and technology. The National Science and Technology Innovation System (NIS) aims to enhance national competitiveness through national innovation based on science and technology. The national innovation system defined by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) emphasizes the flow of knowledge that creates, accumulates, disseminates, and utilizes new knowledge and information. The interaction between all innovation actors in the innovation ecosystem is the most important. Within the national science and technology innovation system, the National Research Council of Science & Technology(NST) and 25 research institutes are cooperating and collaborating with universities and private innovators as science and technology think tanks. In the NIS 1.0 system, innovation was driven by focusing on R&D innovation, but the current NIS 2.0 system was designed to expand and combine with various economic and social fields surrounding science and technology. At the moment, we are preparing the NIS 3.0 system reflecting the national strategy to respond to the rapidly increasing competition for technological hegemony and changes in the global economic order represented by de-globalization and decarbonization.


On the other hand, there is no system that officially supports the establishment of a national research system. The legal system is incomplete for researches to realizes Article 22 (1) of the Constitution, “All citizens have the freedom to study and the arts.” Study is a system of knowledge, and academic freedom is to ensure and enjoy educational activities to acquire knowledge and research activities to explore. A ground where freedom is sufficiently guaranteed and enjoyed must be well made.


However, research activities are focused on basic studies centered on universities under the ‘Academic Promotion Act’, and is limited to science and technology and fragmented under the ‘Act on Promotion of Basic Research and Support for Technology Development. Academic freedom of social sciences such as sociology, economics, business administration, political science, geography, education, and law, and humanities such as philosophy, history, literature, and art is limited to production-oriented research activities.


It is necessary to institutionalize the establishment of a ‘National Research System’ so that the knowledge produced by the national think tank and the National Assembly, local and private think tanks is organically connected and spread and utilized as a national policy for the society to develop based on intelligence. 



Mi Ock Mun

President

Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI)

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