“We Can Never Produce Outcomes Worthy of a Nobel Prize in a Short-Sighted Research Environment.”
KU embarks on KU-FRG, a KRW 5 billion future-oriented creative research project
A shift from short-term projects to unrestrained next-generation convergence projects
In August 2016, Korea University established the Future Research Grant (KU-FRG), a new program that allocates five billion won of university money to encourage next-generation convergence research activities.
This is the first time that the university has made an investment focusing on future-oriented convergence research rather than short-term research performance.
The KU-FRG differs from other research grants available at Korea University in that it does not require the grant recipients to submit their papers within a set time frame and it gives them autonomy in deciding where to spend the money.
The KU-FRG reflects the university’s new commitment to future-oriented research activities, which can create new knowledge, rather than generating more of the same research outcomes. This new program is expected to motivate the faculty and researchers at Korea University to break free from old academic research conventions and give them opportunities to explore untapped research fields.
Korea University has determined three types of project to be supported by the KU-FRG program: Team Research Projects (convergence projects with an objective of winning contracts for large-scale national projects); Young Researchers’ Individual Projects (projects led by young researchers with great potential), and Creative Individual Projects (creative, future-oriented projects). In addition, the university has divided research into three categories—the Newton Project for basic science and engineering, the Dasan Project for social science, and the Renaissance Project for the humanities—in order to establish a new tradition of practical and creative academic research. Of a total of 292 simplified proposals submitted, 135 (involving 201 people, or around 12.5 percent of all faculty members) were selected through a screening process.
One notable project is Transdisciplinary Research on Capacity Building to Counter and Manage National Infectious Disease Crises, a multidisciplinary convergence research project to be led by a team of 23 Korea University professors in the humanities, social studies, policy making, science and engineering, and medicine. This project’s objectives include health risk prediction, diagnostic kit development, risk analysis and assessment, big data-based infectious disease containment, providing infectious disease victims with psychological support programs, maintaining risk communication, and ensuring early diagnosis, disease prevention, and follow-up management. The team came up with the project based on the idea that the spread of infectious diseases is not a natural disaster, but a disaster caused by human error and system failure. They are planning to use their collective intelligence to perform transdisciplinary research activities and to go even further to engage in international and private-public cooperation efforts.
Sang-ok Choi, a professor in the Department of Public Administration and the leader of this project, said, “Exploring one discipline in depth has its own merits, but it does little to help us understand, diagnose, and come up with solutions to a certain problem. Universities have been afraid of crossing boundaries between different disciplines. The KU-FRG will be Korea University’s first experiment to use the collective intelligence of the campus community to enable the specialization of each discipline and multidisciplinary convergence or transdisciplinary synergy at the same time. This project is not solely about infectious diseases. We also want to provide a blueprint for how different disciplines can work together, so that we can catalyze more transdisciplinary research,” he added, emphasizing how important it is for intellectuals to give back to society.
On the significance of this new grant program, President Jaeho Yeom of Korea University explained, “We’ll give full support to any research projects with the potential to play a critical role in helping our university to be the leader in next-generation education and research. We can never produce outcomes worthy of a Nobel Prize in a short-sighted research environment.”
Tae-jin Song , Vice President for Research Affairs, said, “Unlike typical grant programs sponsored by the National Research Foundation of Korea or the central government, the KU-FRG does not put pressure on researchers to produce outcomes in a short period of time. In other words, researchers are allowed to wait for their creative theories or ideas to ripen and they are encouraged to engage in future-oriented convergence research. I believe that this grant model will lead Korea University to a bright future.”