Commentary: The debate rages on why Vietnamese scientists do not invent or publish much. It is interesting that a country of 90 million people can only produce a number scientific publications equal to the number by one university in Thailand.
When Vietnam was under the French rule, Saigon was the pearl of Orient or Southeast Asia. After 38 years of communist leadership, claiming themselves as the “highest intelligence of humankind” or “đỉnh cao trí tuệ loài người”, Vietnam’s income per capita was 51 years behind Indonesia, 95 years behind Thailand and 158 years behind Singapore. In 2010, Vietnam’s income per capita was just equal to 1/5 of Thailand’s, 1/8 of Malaysia’s and 1/43 of Singapore’s.
In contrast, those 4 million Vietnamese who have been lucky to be taken in by the USA or Europe, more than 400,000 are highly educated and professional in their fields in that same period.
The answer is just simple. Environment or society creating opportunity, which is conducive to creativity or innovations. In a communist regime, critical thinking is forbidden and punished by law. How can education produce a population to reach their own potential? How can scientists be creating while they are heavily regulated? How can Vietnamese communists keep embracing the failed policies of the Marxism-Leninism? All the Vietnamese leaders have to learn the bibles of Marxism-Leninism. Vietnamese communists keep repeating the same mistakes and expect different results.
According to Descartes, a famous French philosopher, mathematician, and writer, who has been considered as ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, his best known for the philosophical statement “Cogito ergo sum” (French: Je pense, donc je suis; English: I think, therefore I am) defines the difference between human beings and animals. One has to wonder that the fact that communists keeping repeating the same policies and hoping for different outcomes actually defy the basic existential of human being.
While scientists believe that they have to work in very poor conditions and affirm that Vietnam needs to spend more money to develop and encourage scientific research, businessmen say money is not the problem.
Nguyen Thanh Tung from Leuven University in Belgium, when discussing the financial costs for scientific research, said that one should aknowledge the important role of the financial support to the development of science and technology. In most of cases, the scientists with the support of modern machines would succeed more than hundreds of scientists with just paper and pen.
The pay to scientists also plays a very important role in the successes of scientific research works. In the flat world, when the iPhone has nearly the same sale prices in all countries in the world, it would be unreasonable to ask the scientists who receive $150 a month to work hard and obtain as many achievements as the scientists who receive $3,000 a month.
Meanwhile, a report by the World Bank released in 2009 showed that Vietnam’s income per capita was 51 years behind Indonesia, 95 years behind Thailand and 158 years behind Singapore. In 2010, Vietnam’s income per capita was just equal to 1/5 of Thailand’s, 1/8 of Malaysia’s and 1/43 of Singapore’s.
However, Tung believes that Vietnam is a developing economy, therefore, it cannot increase the salaries for scientists and spend all money on laboratories, because this would break the harmonization in the society and create unfairness to other sectors, such as education, healthcare, national defense, culture and sports.
“The national economy should be seen as the heart of the whole country. Once the heart is still weak, other parts of the body cannot develop well. This is the reason why not only science, but many other fields also still cannot develop,” Tung said.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Tien Dat, the owner of a business specializing in selling products made of nano technology, has affirmed that scientists should not blame their modest achievements on the low pay.
“I believe that scientists have few scientific research works published on prestigious scientific journals simply because they do not want to spend time and make efforts to find the solutions for themselves,” Dat said.
Vietnam has many scientists famous not only in Vietnam but also all over the world. In the past, Luong Dinh Cua or Tran Dai Nghia still made great scientific research works. And nowadays, many scientists still can invent the things useful for people’s lives.
“In football, for example, only some super-stars have sky high incomes, while not all footballers can become billionaires. The same is in science. Don’t hunt for the master of doctor degrees and then ask the society to pay high to you,” he said.
The businessman said he once worked like many other chemists and suffered hundreds of unsuccessful experiments before he could succeed. He had to use his own money and the money borrowed from friends for his research. While Lai Minh Chuc, a normal person, had to sell his fortune, to work out on the machine which can classify garbage, the scientists with doctorates still say they need money to conduct research.
“I think that the scientists who demand money for scientific research have been overindulged,” Dat said.
“It’s time to change our mind. We don’t need academic boys. We need the scientists who can make the inventions useful to people and the society,” he continued.