Editorial: the key to the success of the new Science Council

The government on Wednesday inaugurated the National Council for Science and Technology (NSTC), a ministry-level cabinet council, making it an apex government agency in guiding the country’s development in science and technology. The council aims to play an essential role in Taiwan’s industrial transformation and technological innovation. Its establishment refers to the reorganization of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), which was established in March 2014, with former Minister of Science and Technology Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠) leading the new agency.

It also indicates the organizational development of the policy-making bureaucracy for science and technology development in 1959, when the Guidelines for the Long-Term Development of Science (國家長期發展科學計畫綱領) were passed to reform basic sciences. was. The groundwork for a solid research environment. In the same year, the government established the National Long-Term Science Development Committee to oversee research organization planning and tertiary education. It was renamed the National Science Council (NSC) in 1969, before being reorganized into MOST in 2014.

Over the past seven decades, the government agency responsible for promoting science and technology development has undergone many changes in terms of organizational structure and function to align with the development needs of the nation at a given point in time. For example, the NSC was tasked with promoting basic research and supporting academic research, as well as formulating policies and developing science parks. In 2014, it was changed to MOST to link academic research and industrial development.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the Ministry of Economic Affairs has also made significant contributions over the years, helping to improve the applied research and technical capabilities of local industries, while the Cabinet-level National Development Council has of late supported has become a major force. Development of local technology start-ups in Taiwan. Unfortunately, competition between agencies to meet their goals and vie for government resources has led to tensions between them over the years.

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Due to the growing importance of science and technology development to the country’s economic development, government agencies need greater departmental and inter-ministerial cooperation, and the appointment of Minister Wu without portfolio as NSTC chief indicates the government’s desire. does. Coordinating resource allocation across ministries and implementing key science and technology policies.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Wu said the new council would draft science and technology policies, support basic research, improve science parks, promote sustainable development and develop talent. He also said that precision health care, smart Medicare, electric vehicles and the space industry are among the key areas the government has to focus on. However, for WU to be successful in its job, NSTC needs to integrate functions that were previously in the domain of other agencies. In addition to its role in policy making, the new council should also coordinate, evaluate and supervise the execution of schemes initiated by other agencies. In short, it is about efficiency and bureaucratic flexibility.

The council must avoid making the same mistake its predecessor made over the past eight years: keeping the ratio of basic research spending to overall technical research and development spending less than 10 percent. The country’s long-term competitiveness could be undermined by a weak commitment to basic research. Funding for basic research in other major economies typically accounts for 10 percent or more of their national research and development budget to ensure continued research in science and technology.

Lagging far behind other advanced countries in this regard will make Taiwan’s goal of becoming a scientific and technological innovation power even more far-fetched.

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