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The workshop seeks to explore science, technology and innovation activities and policies in the era of uncertainty. The global political environment is experiencing dramatic changes in recent years. In the US, swift policy changes have been initiated under the new Trump administration, such as the restriction of travel and employment requirement for foreigners, and the reduction and even termination of research funding in some fields is to be expected. In Europe, the aftermath of Brexit is still unsettled but will have repercussion for European science. All of these developments will certainly affect the scientific community and research activities in the region, and the change will soon spread to the rest of the world. In this context, the workshop intends to explore how uncertainty affects scientific talent, research collaboration and government responses.

 

Day 1 – 27/11 Theme:  Recruitment and mobility of scientific talent

 

The vying for scientific talent is an ongoing competitive process among universities, research institutes and industry. In today’s globalized and networked society there is strong competition for talented and usually highly mobile individuals. From the institutional perspective, recruiting from well-known ‘branded’ universities is a strategy that helps to reduce uncertainty to some extent. However, this approach is no guarantee against mediocrity, and could in fact overlook talents in the region that come from lesser-known universities. There is a need to balance the criteria for recruitment such that talented individuals are given the opportunity to display their skills and creativity. At the individual level, scientific talents look for a place which offers career prospects and promotion, funds for research and institutional support. They are also attracted by other talented individuals in what makes a creative research environment. Mobility of these individuals depends on these needs being met. In such uncertain times with funding cuts, the question arises whether the pendulum will swing in favor of countries that try to maintain stability of funding? Will a stable environment with few fluctuations and drastic policy changes attract scientific talents to come and stay?

 

 

Day 2 – 28/11 Theme: Research collaboration

 

Collaborative activities of scientific talent is closely tied to their mobility. How likely are researchers to continue their collaboration after they move? What would encourage them to maintain ties? Collaboration helps to facilitate knowledge spillover and communication in the research community. It also reaps significant rewards in the form of higher impact publications compared to single authored publications. This holds especially for international collaborations. For small countries, such as Singapore, international collaboration is of special interest due to limited talent in specialized fields. To boost collaboration, support, encouragement and opportunities at the institutional level are crucial. At the same time, there is a need to explore additional means to help scientists pursue this endeavor. For scientists, greater opportunities to engage with peers, role models with success in partnership, and encouragement from the university could persuade them to collaborate more. But how are institutions meeting these needs and what more can be done? International engagement and university-industry collaboration are often the focus in discussions about research collaboration. Other areas of collaboration such as community-based research are also valuable but often overlooked. This is especially the case for the social sciences that are uniquely qualified to engage with local communities and the problems they face. Through lectures and workshops, the scientific community can bridge the gap with the public. They can reach out in a double sense: to let the public know what they do and what kind of knowledge and expertise they have to offer and to bring them closer in their understanding of societal needs. Would scientists be willing to engage in such collaborative activities, and how can they be motivated to do so?

 

Day 2 – 28/11 Theme:  Government responses and policies

 

As part of the national strategy to develop a knowledge-based innovation-driven economy and society, the Singapore government has set aside public investment in research and innovation every five years since the National Technology Plan in 1995. From a $2-billion investment in research and innovation in 1995, the sum has ballooned to $19 billion in the latest 2020 plan in 2016, with funding prioritized in specific domains to maximize impact. While the framing of policies can be specific or broad, it has different impacts. What is the influence of different types of funding opportunities? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Every government has also to set priorities in its STI strategies. What influence do they have on the scientific community, on industry, on society at large? In response to the research and innovation initiative, institutions have stepped up research in prioritized domains, established research centers and hired research teams to work in specific areas. Individuals may also have changed their research focus so as to partake in the funding. However, priority domains are largely dependent on the global environment in which industry typically operates, so shifts in priority are not uncommon. Such shifts then result in discontinuity, which raises problems related to the availability of scientific talent and the potential for collaboration. Termination of funds could see the research teams leave the country permanently while citizens, who are more rooted, could find themselves trapped. How can such disruptions be minimized? Should priority setting be made on different criteria and if so, which ones? Would this lead to an inefficient allocation of funds? The workshop will explore these and other issues related to policies and their implementation. ​​

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