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Science and technology in Vietnam

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Science and technology in Vietnam represents the wide scientific and technological advances Vietnam has made and has been developing. The main managing agency responsible for science and technology (S&T) in Vietnam is the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). MOST's responsibilities include scientific research, technology development and innovation activities; development of science and technology potentials; intellectual property; standards, metrology and quality control; atomic energy, radiation and nuclear safety; and state management on public services in fields under the Ministry’s management as stipulated by law.

This article describes trends and developments in science and technology in Vietnam since 2008, in particular.

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My first stop on my journey to the labs of the world is Vietnam. A country with 93 million lovely people and a one-party communist system. You can find Vietnam in Southeast Asia, east of Laos and Cambodia and south of China. The two biggest cities are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam has lots of beautiful culture and nature to offer and its economy is one of the fastest growing in the world right now. I wanted to know how it feels like to be a scientist in that country and believe me, I met very interesting people! Welcome to Vietnam! Ok, I'm gonna have dog stomach and dog leg right now! 1 billion Vietnam Dong per kg (US$50.000, 37.000€) So, I went to Hanoi in the north of the country a busy city with at least 8 million people and probably as many motorbikes. The climate is quite moderate with about 20°C in January and 30°C in August. One picture that you will see here everywhere is a picture of Ho Chi Minh. He led Vietnam into the communistic independence and is seen as the Vietnamese Che Guevara or Simon Bolivar. Ok, Ho Chi Minh is a very special person for Vietnamese. For my grandfather, for my father and for me, yes. Is he something like the father of the nation? Yes, the father of the nation! He died 1969 and his body rests here in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi. When he died, my mother cried - very much. Okay after this little sightseeing trip, it's time to meet some scientists. But maybe not with an empty stomach. And if you're interested in traditional Vietnamese lunch then the little restaurants on the sidewalks with the typical tiny plastic chairs and tables are often the best choice! Now I'm at lunch with my friend Quang and he introduced me to some typical Vietnamese lunch. That's pork meat and noodels. You dip it into the shrimp sauce. And this is what you usually have for lunch? Yes, for lunch for dinner and sometimes for breakfast. Every day! How much is it? I think it's very cheap. US$2. $2 for one person? Yes Really good! Really good! But I've heard about another specialty of Vietnam. Sometimes you eat dog meat? Yes, sometimes. At the first day of a month we don't eat dog meat. Because dog meat is black and we think it's unlucky! Is it comparable to other meats? Like chicken or...? No. It's different. It has its own taste. I think you can try one time! Now I'm really curious about dog meat and I think I should try to find a restaurant where I can try dog. Sooooo, let's see. But the dogs have to wait, because now it's time for the lab. Right now I'm on my way to the Agricultural Genetics Institute, but it's about 8 km from here so I have to take a taxi. But usually people don't take a taxi. They take a mototaxi. Let's see if I can find one. Mototaxi? Yeah! That's exactly what I need. That's what I need. Let's go! A mototaxi is not only a way to get from A to B, it's also a good way to get around in the city and it's cheap and it's quick. Bye bye. See you next time. The Institute of Agricultural Genetics is a new seven-story tall research facility with labs that are clearly above Vietnamese standard. And like often in Vietnam they also have a room to honor the dead. That's a place for the persons who founded the institute. He has passed away a long time ago and this place is here to remember him. Can you see this altar? So, he is the founder of this institute. What is his name? His name is Phan Phai. At present time we have about 420 persons working here. We have 10 departments. Each department follows one topic. On this floor we have 2 laboratories. One is the joint Vietnam-America laboratory, which is the Plant Genomics and Biotechnology lab you can see here. In this lab we work mainly with soy beans and our aim is to create transgenic plants which are resistant to drought stress and have insect tollerance. Here you can see the transgenic plants at different stages. We start from soy bean seeds and then we terminate them and do infection with agrobacterium, which carry the genes of interest. Either drought resistence or insect resistence. And then from those half seeds we regenerate the whole plants. This is the department of Genetic Engineering Do you know this one? Oh, what is that? This is Cordyceps. Do you know Cordyceps? Ehhmm, no. It's a kind of mushroom. It grows in the mountains in China. It's very expensive. It's 1 billion VND per kg (US$50.000, 37.000€). What is it good for? What do you use it for? This is very good for health! Yes, it prevents cancer and the important thing is: When husband eats, the wife feels 'Wooow'! And what? The husband eats one and his wife feels very well. Do you understand? I understand, ya! Perfect. Yeah, very expensive mushroom. They enter into an insect and they're using the nutrients of the insect and in the summer they grow their fruit bodies. That means, in the winter it's like an insect (grows in insects), but in the summer it's like a plant. Aha, interesting! ...HELP FOR NEIGHBOURS Our institute and other institutes in Vietnam have collaborative projects ...HELP FOR NEIGHBOURS with Laos and Cambodia. Some with Myanmar to work with colleagues in those countries in certain problems like rice production, maize production, mushroom production, cassava (manioc) production. We do it now. ...BEST INFRASTRUCTURE FOR SCIENCE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA I think at the moment Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand ...BEST INFRASTRUCTURE FOR SCIENCE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA have quite good positions in Science and Technology in Asia. Because they have a long tradition for funding long tradition for science and technology. Vietnam just started development in the 1990s, last century. So, we have a lot of things to learn! The only green places in the big cities are the parks and if you want to understand Vietnamese mentality you have to come here in the evenings. People use these open and traffic-free spaces first of all for socialising, students hang out here after university and people do all kinds of sports I even saw couples practicing patner dances. But there's also something else that can happen to you as a tourist in the parks. If you sit down on a bench it'll only take minutes until you're surrounded by students. Many of them didn't have English in school and that's the way they learn it. Speaking to foreign people is very helpful for me to study English. Because, you know, I want to study abroad, do my master in Chemistry So, I think I have to learn English better! Like many students I want to improve my English and I want to make friend with somebody from everywhere in the world. How often do you go there? I go there every day. Yeah, when I finish in school, I go to Hoan Kiem lake to the park. So, you must have many friends then? Yes, yes. Back at the institute I was curious, I wanted to know more about the conditions for scientists in Vietnam. The strong point of Vietnamese Science is: we are very flexible and well adapted and we're willing to learn and we are open minded. And the weak point is: we don't have much experience in international collaborations, in scientific writing and English is one of the big problems you know, if you cannot read the papers in English, you don't know where the world of science is going and then you're lost. Most funds come from the government. For example in our group we are 20 persons. 10 persons have a salary from government and 10 persons I have to pay them their salary. What's the average budget that you have per year? The budget per year? Approximately. Maybe around 1 billion VND ($US50.000, 37.000€) So, that includes the salary of all the people and the cost for all the work and lab equipment? Yes, that's it! Everything is covered by 1 billion VND? Yes, yes. With the salaries - it is still behind the standard for researchers if you compare it to Europe or America. But we are catching up. But of course you have to understand that the living cost is different. For example it's much more expensive to live in Europe or America compared to Vietnam. So, it's hard to get the equal salaries. There are 2 kinds - the permanent contracts or the temporary contracts. As a PhD (postdoc) you will promote to the permanent contracts. But the only problem is the salary. The salary is more or less, depending on the laboratory, so, now I have some over - it's around US$200 (150€). $200 per month? Yes, from $100 - $200 per month. I get money from home. My parents pay. But, in free time I have a class. Teaching by myself to get money. To earn money by myself. Would you tell me how much money you have per month? Per month, about 2 million VND (US$100, 75€) per month. For me about 1 million VND. About US$50 (37€). But I think for me with the baby, for 1 month I need the minimum of US$400 (300€). It's gonna be difficult. Because with the basic salary of US$100 or US$150 it is not enough. So, basically people here have support from the family. Is the government supporting families? Do you get extra money children? No! It's a problem of Vietnamese mentality. You know, it's like in China, Japan or in other Asiatic countries, So, the boss is like a god. What do you think is more important: Your knowledge, the ability of working or the relationship? The relationship here is very important. So, that's why I came back (from France) I didn't want to work in a public institute. Even if I have a sub-boss there, I prefer to work in some international laboratory or institute. It is hard to say because I have never been in the industrial sector. I heard that the salaries are more attractive, but also the chances for development in the research institutes are also very good. You have lots of chances for further education and training from the institute to go abroad for example and have lots of collaborations with international institutions. So, it is difficult to say, which one is more attractive So, I'm quite happy with the conditions right now. From a European point of view, many things are relatively cheap Vietnam. 12€ (US$15) for a double room, 1€ (US$1.3) for a beer, or 4€ (US$5.3) for a pair of flip flops. But there is a place where only the rich people go for shopping and this place is called: Supermarket. Especially milk products are uncommon in Vietnam, expensive and well protected. You easily pay 4€ (US$5.3) for butter or for a piece of cheese. Another rare and well protected substances is called: Chocolate. Another wonderful and shocking thing on the streets of Hanoi are the bird songs. Even though there's no space for trees you can hear many birds. Vietnamese people like to hang their bird cages outside during the day, to give the impression there's a little bit of nature left. At night they'll put them all back into their flats. And there's another interesting fact about Vietnamese culture. The fashion rule No.1 for women is: Pale skin is beautiful! So, when outside make sure you complete body surface is covered The whole beauty set includes: A hat, a dust mask, long sleeves, gloves and socks in your flip flops. But in the cities not everyone is following this trend. Besides the economic progress, corruption is a huge problem in Vietnam. I was told that politicians and policemen are the last ones to trust. The press is strongly controlled by the government and also the freedom of speech is limited. Especially topics like politics you should never discuss in public. After a long day in the university, nothing is better than being out on the streets, having a beer, having some nice Vietnamese food. Yen brought me to a really nice place on the street and let's see what we have today for dinner! And Yen, what is that? It's called Nem, it's called Nem Chua. I think it's a specialty for Vietnam. okay aaaand you can eat it? So what do you do with it? Inside is meat. There is nothing inside! Ohh, there is something. Meat, aha. It's fresh meat. Ah, it's like a sausage then. Yes. with sauce, ya. It's delicious. You like that? Yeah, I like it, it's delicious and you can try it. Sure, I will. Okay, in the sauce and in my mouth. It's nice. It's a bit like Bifi. Do you know Bifi? Because the tables in Vietnam are always very small and you can't put all the stuff on the table... So, all the stuff you don't need you just throw it on the floor. In Vietnam a scientist or science is not really important. or let's say it doesn't really play an important role. My father was a lecturer in university so, I was born into a scientists family and I feel that... people might be interested in being a banker or architect more than in being a scientist. In the case of my institutions, I would say that women play a more important role than men in science and technology. In our institute more than 60% of worker staff are women. and women are doing very well in science and technology. Women after they get children they are little bit more independent. Then they are doing very well in science and technology. We can freely chose boyfriend and girlfriend but we have to introduce them to our parents. And parents put some pressure on you, if they like this man or if they don't. Some family, if they say, especially for a boy: "I don't like this girl, she can not be your wife" Maybe he says: "No, I can not go further with you!" You can't invite you boyfriend to sleep at home or you can't kiss your boyfriend in front of your parents. You can go for dinner or something like that. But not too much. You can not come back home too late. My parents were very strict. I didn't have a boyfriend until I graduated university. I would have been unacceptable for my family. I never came back home after 9PM. Unless I had class at night. The atmosphere at work is different. here it's more... at work it's not like really work. It's more like family at work. In France it's work and that's all And here are less strict rules about the safety or something like this. In France everything is strict. You have to do this, you have to do that... In Vietnam family is very important. The link between the family is very strong. In France we want to live alone after 18 years old. Here you live with your family until you get married or something. Europeans - You talk straight, you always have a clear plan and you will follow the plan. One of the most spectacular things in Hanoi is definitely the traffic. Cars are unaffordable for most people and that's why everyone has a scooter and the cool thing is: There are no rules. Or let's say there's only one: Go with the flow! It looks dangerous, but it's not really. On your next trip to Vietnam, make sure you buy or rent a motorbike and JOIN THE SWARM! In Vietnam there's not just one religion. Besides Buddhism you can also find Taoism, Confucianism, Animism and others. In any case the veneration of the dead plays a very important role. I believe, who passed away has an effect to the family. For example my grandmother she will continue for us and help us in some trouble. That is the believe of most of the people in Vietnam. Traditionally Ok guys, of course there's no science documentary without a self-experiment And today we'll have a special dish and that's the most delicious food of Vietnam. Guess what it is! It's an animal that had a name before - It's dog. This restaurant is a special dog meat restaurant and of course I want to check the kitchen. Hm, I only saw more or less normal looking meat parts. But it doesn't matter what your eyes see, it matters what your brain knows. So, that's our table. That's the dog? That's grilled, grilled dog. And this? Sausage. Sausage from dog. Ya, dog sausage. And what kind of meat is it? Which part of the dog? I think it's stomach and leg. Ok, so, I'm gonna have dog stomach and dog leg, right now. You take the dog meat and an apricot leaf and put into the shrimp sauce and eat it. Very good! I'm ready for my first dog. Apricot leaf. Hey Rex, how are you doing? it's good. In my head, you know. I'm thinking about all the nice, cute dogs, you know. So, dog meat tastes like dog meat. it's not comparable to other meats. The only way to find out, you have to try yourself! COUNTRY WITH BEST SCIENCE? Australia, America, Germany COUNTRY WITH BEST SCIENCE? USA Japan and America have very good conditions UK or Germany or USA WHICH LANGUAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPEAK FLUENTLY? Chinese because they are bigger and I must understand them Deutsch Spanish French Ger, German WOULD YOU MARRY A FOREIGNER? Yes, I thought about it before WOULD YOU MARRY A FOREIGNER? but actually I went back to marry a Vietnamese girl. No No Yes, my partner is foreigner. Vietnamese, yes. YOUR FAVORITE SOCCER TEAM? Arsenal YOUR FAVORITE SOCCER TEAM? AC Milan Bayern Munich Maybe Manchester United. Because there are many handsome footballer. Okay, now I think I have a little bit of an idea about a Vietnamese science life. There's only one question that remains... THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE IN VIETNAM The biggest award for a scientist, especially in the agricultural area, is to bring something to farmers. And you'll see the result of your work on the farmer's field. To bring benefit to farmers, poor farmers. Then the happiness of farmers is the happiness of agricultural scientists. I'm sure that we are doing very well, better and better each day because there are many Vietnamese scientists, being trained outside in America, in Australia, in Europe and many of them are coming back to Vietnam. But to achieve this we have to overcome quite a lot Human resources, infrastructure, mechanism of investment.. A lot of challenges we have to overcome. But with the huge economic growth rate, that will also affect science and the curious and open Vietnamese mentality, I'm not worried about the future of science in this country and until then, people will make the best out of it. No matter how high the flood rises. On my last day in Hanoi Quang again invited me for dinner and we have very tasty tongue of a duck. Before I'm enjoying that, I just wanted to say: Thanks again to Vietnam! I met lots of really nice scientists that helped me a lot and again I felt the pleasure that science is just a big family and everyone was helping me and treated me like a colleague. Thanks again, have a good time and see you again in Vietnam! The blue are essentially the nuclei of the cells today I was feeling cold there is a huge gap between rich people and poor people as a PhD student it is practically impossible to get a postdoc position in the country you can find here lots of fresh avocados I'm an optimist and I hope things can change then I see younger people coming back, very enthusiastic and I think they'll start to change things


Socio-economic context

Structure of the economy

Viet Nam has become increasingly integrated into the world economy, particularly since its efforts to liberalize the economy enabled it to join the World Trade Organization in 2007. The manufacturing and service sectors each account for 40% of GDP. However, almost half the labour force (48%) is still employed in agriculture. One million workers a year, out of a total of 51.3 million in 2010, are projected to continue leaving agriculture for the other economic sectors in the foreseeable future.[1][2]

In manufacturing, Viet Nam is expected to lose some of its current comparative advantage in low wages in the near future. It will need to compensate for this loss with productivity gains, if it is to sustain high growth rates: GDP per capita has almost doubled since 2008. High-tech exports from Viet Nam grew dramatically during 2008–2013, particularly with respect to office computers and electronic communications equipment. A big challenge will be to implement strategies that increase the potential for enhancing technology and skills currently present in large multinational firms to smaller-scale domestic firms. This will require strategies to enhance technical capacity and skills among local firms that are, as yet, only weakly integrated with global production chains.[2]

Many foreign multinational firms have gravitated towards Vietnam in recent years but the number of patents nevertheless remains low: 47 were granted between 2002 and 2013. Even though 11% of Southeast Asia's high-tech exports came from Vietnam in 2013 (excluding the Republic of Korea and Japan), according to the Comtrade database, the majority of high-tech exports from Vietnam were designed elsewhere and assembled in Vietnam. Even if foreign firms change their behaviour and intensify their in-house R&D, this will only boost R&D in Vietnam if the multinationals can train a sufficient number of local personnel and work with skilled local suppliers and firms.[2]

Higher education

Since 1995, enrolment in higher education has grown tenfold to well over 2 million in 2012. By 2014, there were 419 institutions of higher education.[3] A number of foreign universities operate private campuses in Vietnam, including Harvard University (USA) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Australia).[2]

The government’s strong commitment to education (6.3% of GDP in 2012), in general, and higher education, in particular (1.05% of GDP in 2012), has fostered significant growth in higher education but this growth will need to be sustained to retain academics. The Law on Higher Education (2012) gives university administrators greater autonomy, although the Ministry of Education retains responsibility for quality assurance.[2]

Issues and difficulties in Science and Technology in Vietnam

According to a report on the role of science and technology in Vietnam (1999), “the issues and difficulties in S&T in Vietnam are the following (i) policies are inconsistent and even contradictory, (ii) decision-making processes pertaining to the entire S&T system are slow, burdensome, and bureaucratic, (iii) Vietnam does not have well-developed systems or capabilities for technical and economic forecasting or foresight, (iv) Vietnam has limited technology acquisition under existing arrangements, (v) Vietnam has a weakness in the assimilation of new technologies and underinvestment in assimilation following the purchase of new technologies, (vi) the national R&D system in Vietnam is highly fragmented, (vii) Very serious underinvestment in technology management and systems engineering.[4]

Science, technology and innovation

Institutional context

There are a large number of universities and an even larger pool of research institutions in Vietnam. This poses a challenge for ministries in terms of co-ordination. To some extent, market forces are likely to eliminate the smaller and financially weaker units.[2]

The autonomy which Vietnamese research centres have enjoyed since the mid-1990s has enabled many of them to operate as quasi-private organizations, providing services such as consulting and technology development. Some have ‘spun off’ from the larger institutions to form their own semi-private enterprises, fostering the transfer of public sector personnel employed in science and technology to these semi-private establishments. One comparatively new university, Ton Duc Thang (est. 1997), has already set up 13 centres for technology transfer and services that together produce 15% of university revenue. Many of these research centres serve as valuable intermediaries bridging public research institutions, universities and firms.[2]

Policy developments

The Law on Higher Education (2012) offers university administrators greater autonomy and there are reports that growing numbers of academic staff are also serving as advisors to NGOs and private firms. The Strategy for Science and Technology Development for 2011–2020 drawn up by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2012, builds upon this law by promoting public–private partnerships and seeking to transform ‘public S&T organisations into self-managed and accountable mechanisms as stipulated by law’. The main emphasis is on overall planning and priority-setting, with a view to enhancing innovation capability, particularly in industrial sectors. Although the Strategy omits to fix any targets for funding, it nevertheless sets broad policy directions and priority areas for investment, including:[2]

  • research in mathematics and physics;
  • investigation of climate change and natural disasters;
  • development of operating systems for computers, tablets nd mobile devices;
  • biotechnology applied particularly to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and medicine; and
  • environmental protection.

The Strategy foresees the development of a network of organizations to support consultancy services in the field of innovation and the development of intellectual property. The Strategy also seeks to promote greater international scientific co-operation, with a plan to establish a network of Vietnamese scientists overseas and to initiate a network of ‘outstanding research centres’ linking key national science institutions with partners abroad.[2]

Vietnam has also developed a set of national development strategies for selected sectors of the economy, many of which involve science and technology. Examples are the Sustainable Development Strategy (April 2012) and the Mechanical Engineering Industry Development Strategy (2006), together with Vision 2020 (2006). These dual strategies call for a highly skilled human resource base, a strong policy for investment in research and development, fiscal policies to encourage technological upgrading in the private sector and private-sector investment and regulations to steer investment towards sustainable development.[2][5]

Research trends

In 2011, domestic research expenditure amounted to 0.19% of GDP, one of the lowest ratios in Southeast Asia. Women accounted for 41% of the country's researchers in 2012, one of the highest ratios in Southeast Asia.[2]

The number of Vietnamese publications in Thomson Reuters' Web of Science has increased at a rate well above the average for Southeast Asia but from a low starting point: Vietnamese scientists had 570 articles catalogued in international journals in 2005 and 2 298 in 2014. By 2014, Vietnam had a modest scientific publication density of 25 publications per million inhabitants. This places Vietnam behind Thailand (94), Vanuatu (74) and the Solomon Islands (30) but ahead of the Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic (19). Vietnamese publications catalogued in international journals focus mainly on life sciences (22%), physics (13%) and engineering (13%), which is consistent with recent advances in the production of diagnostic equipment and shipbuilding. Almost 77% of all papers published between 2008 and 2014 by Vietnamese scientists had at least one international co-author, which is common in developing countries.[2]

See also


Definition of Free Cultural Works logo notext.svg This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, 693-731, UNESCO, UNESCO Publishing. To learn how to add open license text to Wikipedia articles, please see Wikipedia:Adding open license text to Wikipedia. For information on reusing text from Wikipedia, please see the terms of use.


  1. ^ Economist Intelligence Unit (2012). Skilled Labour Shortfalls in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. London: Custom report for British Council.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030. Paris: UNESCO. 2015. ISBN 978-92-3-100129-1.
  3. ^ Brown, D. (2014). Viet Nam's Education System: still under Construction. East Asia Forum.
  4. ^ Bezanson, K., J. Annerstedt, K. Chung, D. Hopper, G. Oldham and F. Sagasti (1999). Vietnam at the Crossroads: The Role of Science and Technology. London: IDRC Central Institute for Economic Management.
  5. ^ "The (ir)rational consideration of the cost of science in transition economies". January 1, 2018. doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0281-4. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
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