Putting COMPETES to Shame

December 28th, 2008

Posted by: admin

While scientists and their advocates in the U.S. are hoping the new administration will fully fund the COMPETES Act and double the research budgets of the DOE Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, South Korea aims to do more.  According to a post on the Science magazine science policy blog, South Korea aims to become one of the top seven R&D countries in the world.  They currently consider themselve number 12, spending 3.23% of GDP on R&D in 2006 (the U.S. spends a smaller percentage of its GDP), and 25.6% of their research budget on basic and fundamental research.  They plan to boost the GDP percentage to 5% and the share of research budget on basic and fundamental research to 50%.

I’m not as convinced as the blog poster that the South Korean plan will make the country more of a science powerhouse and not just a tech giant, since the boosts in even basic and fundamental research planned will probably be focused heavily on the seven tech areas targeted by the country.  I also have my doubts that government tax incentives will really persuade the country’s businesses to contribute three-quarters of all R&D spending (however, that might be my American bias).  Even if they do, current trends in industrial R&D suggest that a very small r and an enormous D in that figure.  It isn’t clear if that will allow for the enormous boosts in research grants that are part of the plan.  All said, it’s still nice to see a government trying an aggressive plan rather than passing a bill with little funding to support it.

2 Responses to “Putting COMPETES to Shame”

  1. CurtFischer Says:

    All said, it’s still nice to see a government trying an aggressive plan rather than passing a bill with little funding to support it.

    I suppose I generally agree with the post, but I have to ask, doesn’t it verge on equating science policy to science funding policy? :)

    I am not ready to accept *on principle* that giant, government-led R&D spending drives lead to better science or better societies. Sure, government-led R&D seems to have worked for many situations in the past (the space program for aeronautics, the defense department for the internet, nuclear technology, etc, etc, etc), but does that mean it always will? In particular, the government’s choice to use as a success metric R&D spending as a % of GDP is suspect. Just give all scientists 2x raises! It doesn’t mean anyone will get better R or D, though.

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  3. David Bruggeman Says:

    Oh, both COMPETES and the South Korean plan do equate science policy with science budget policy, no question. And none of the measures mentioned in the South Korean policy are unique to that program. R&D as a percentage of GDP has been a widely (ab)used metric in this area.