The Ministry of Science and Technology yesterday said it is aiming to budget NT$4 billion (US$131,6 million) on fundamental research next year.
Of the NT$4 billion, about NT$2 billion would be funded by the Executive Yuan, while the other half would be covered by redirecting funds from other areas, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee.
Surplus from the National Science and Technology Development Fund would also be used to support the plan, he said.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Until now, an increasingly small portion of the nation’s overall spending on scientific and technological development has gone toward fundamental research, Chen said, adding that it fell to just 7.8 percent in 2017, compared with Switzerland’s 41.7 percent, the Netherlands’ 26.5 percent and Singapore’s 23.8 percent.
The number of dissertations being published is also falling, as is the number of doctoral candidates, he said.
In the long run, less spending on fundamental research could lead to a decline in the nation’s competitiveness, Chen said.
Most Taiwanese universities have slipped every year since 2015 in the Best Global Universities Rankings published by US News & World Report, National Taiwan University professor Huang Mu-hsuan (黃慕萱) said.
As a long-time researcher of university rankings, Huang said that 75 percent of indexes used in the US News rankings are related to academic papers.
The quantity of academic papers in Taiwan has plunged, while citation counts — an indicator of quality — of published papers are still not as high as in other countries, both of which are the reasons for Taiwan’s ever-dropping rankings, she said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧) said she supported Chen’s request for a budget of NT$4 billion to support the nation’s science research, but added that further discussions about patent output value and patent renewal are needed.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said the LEAP Program — through which the ministry sends doctoral and high-level talent to the US, France and Israel for further studies — should be modified, as few students are willing to return to Taiwan afterward.
Only 119 students have applied to join a program launched this year to grant additional monthly pay of NT$30,000 to NT$50,000 to doctoral students, while the quota limit is 300, DPP Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) said, adding that immediate adjustments are needed.
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