The interview was made with Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Lan, VNUA president right after she had finished the discussion meeting on the project to develop the excellent research groups of the university. “We expect this breakthrough will help confirm the position of the university, and quickly bring technological advances to serve farmers and businesses. Thus, along with a "quintessential" training strategy, we aim to reach the core and long-term values for farmers i.e. higher incomes, developed agriculture, and a wealthier countryside " shared Prof. Nguyen Thi Lan.
Forming the " excellent " research group
What do you expect from excellent research groups?
- VNUA has always determined that scientific research is the "vitality" of the university development. The government also advocates scientific content in agricultural products and others as well. Therefore, we are promoting the capacity of our scientists so that the results of research are more relevant to the reality and can be commercialized.
We have been synchronously implementing various solutions, in which forming excellent research groups (ERG) can be considered our most concerning with high expectation. We now have 50 strong research groups, which are the core to form excellent research groups.
- What will they do?
- VNUA’s viewpoint is to improve the quality of scientific research, aiming at the core value for farmers, agriculture and rural areas. Therefore, in addition to the articles published in prestigious international scientific journals to affirm the ranking of the university, quantity of applied research, technical advances, technology are the key indicators to be achieved for the groups.
- How can such groups be formed?
- We apply favorable regime for the groups which is consider a big advancement of the university. For example, normally a lecturer has an average income of 10-14 million VND/month; now ERG members can get 30-40 million VND/month. The university also reduces required teaching time for them. From my experience, I found that if the required teaching time remains, they would not have much time for research.
In addition, the university provides some budget for their initial research when they haven’t got funding yet from other sources. They can also use current facility and labs of the university for their research. Of course, requirements for the group is also very high, for example, they must publish least 8 international publications every year, successfully apply ministerial and equivalent projects. Thus, we expect to have 10 groups. These groups will be spearheads inspiring the passion and motivation for others.
Establish a spin-off company
- I know that how research results can be applied in practice or commercialized is the concerning issue of the university. As a manager, what are your solutions?
- In theory, a university must have an application address, a place for testing products, and their research must be associated with reality, localities and enterprises. In fact, KU Leuven University - ranked as the number one in Europe in innovation - has 150 startups and 2,000 science and technology transfer contracts each year. Or in the Netherlands, the world's leading country in modern agriculture, Wageningen University is considered the backbone, supporting the development of businesses and the creation of innovative zones.
Not driving out of this trend, VNUA will build creative and technology incubation centers; develop spin-offs; provide trainings on start-up knowledge and skills and supports for students. We want scientists to start their research based on social demand, reality. They must think about the commercialization and application rather than results put under the tables.
- What model do you and Presidency Board desire to develop Vietnam National University of Agriculture into?
- We want to develop Vietnam National University of Agriculture to become a center of innovation of the country and the region in the field of agriculture - rural development and science and technology; renovating education and training according to the world's advanced model, which is a multidisciplinary research university with complete autonomy. We expect that the university can attract more good students, international students, international scientists to study and research; receiving many resources from domestic and foreign enterprises to support and invest in research.
“I am happy with my work”
- You are a National Assembly member. How does this role help you in your management at the university?
- As a member of the National Assembly, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge, to have a macro view with the socio-economic development of the country helping me more motivation in management. On the contrary, experiences at the university enable me better fulfill my delegate duties that is reflecting difficulties and obstacles at the micro level to the National Assembly, thereby making necessary policy recommendations.
For more than 20 years, I have been engaged in scientific research and human resource training for agriculture and rural development, including 5 years of experience in advanced research and training environment in Japan. When I hold this position, I can understand thoughts, desires and difficulties of the scientists. That is why so I have made policies to both motivate and encourage them to focus on research. I also particularly encourage my students who are passionate about scientific research. I can arrange myself to support them despite the busy work.
- In your opinion, what is the biggest difficulty of women doing scientific research?
- I think that is how to balance in life, allocate reasonable time for family, work and other relationships. Women who do scientific research and management sometimes have to give up some personal interests but I feel happy and love the work I have chosen.