The Ministry of Science and Technology plans to downsize the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) by closing the Taiwan Typhoon and Flood Research Institute and merging two other labs, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The institute’s resources and personnel are to be transferred to the ministry’s National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR), the source said.
Meanwhile, the NARL’s National Nano Device Laboratories and National Chip Implementation Center are to be merged into one organization, the source added.
Asked for comment, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Su Fong-chin (蘇芳慶) yesterday said that the plan aims to maximize the value of the ministry’s research agencies by integrating their resources.
“Government-funded research is required to contribute to society and the economy,” Su said, adding that many lawmakers have called for the NARL to be reorganized.
However, some researchers have expressed concern that the nation’s research on typhoons and floods might be discontinued after the institute is absorbed into the NCDR.
One of the institute’s most well-known projects is the Dropwindsonde Observations for Typhoon Surveillance Near the Taiwan Region (DOTSTAR) program, which deploys a sensor package out of an aircraft to measure storm conditions.
The institute also planned to fly uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) into storms to collect data this summer, but it has not yet done so.
Both programs might be suspended, particularly as the NCDR mainly provides information on which to base disaster prevention suggestions for government officials, a researcher said on Friday on condition of anonymity.
Despite the disapproval of many scientists, the ministry continued to push for the reorganization, probably because some of the institute’s research would not be immediately applicable, the researcher said.
The Central Weather Bureau has maintained a close relationship with the institute, which has helped analyze weather data gathered by satellites, carried out the DOTSTAR program and developed meteorological models, bureau Director-General Yeh Tien-chiang (葉天降) said yesterday.
The bureau expects the institute to continue functioning as usual, but would certainly comply with the government’s policy, he said.
The UAV project would not be continued at the NCDR, whose mission is to apply technologies related to disaster prevention, NARL vice president Wu Kuang-chong (吳光鐘) said.
Asked how the institute’s scientific instruments would be distributed, Wu said the NARL would donate them to the NCDR if it wants them, or to other agencies.
After the NARL’s board approves the reorganization plan in a meeting scheduled for July 25, it would initiate the relevant procedures, NARL president Wang Yeong-her (王永和) said, adding that the reorganization could be completed by next year.
Of the institute’s nearly 50 staff, about 30 have agreed to be transferred to the NCDR, he said.
As for the rest, some would be transferred to other NARL subsidiaries, while the remainder have their own plans, he added.
“Protecting the rights of the institute’s staff is our biggest concern,” Wang said, adding that the NARL would offer severance pay to those leaving the institute, including those who have found new jobs.
The institute’s UAVs, which were purchased from Australia, would be kept at the NARL, which is to establish a task force for uncrewed vehicle applications, he said.
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