This week the Royal Society hosted a second bilateral conference with South Korea’s Institute for Basic Science (IBS). The IBS was set up in 2012 with an award of just under £2bn over five years to establish 50 new institutes modelled on the German Max Planck Institutes. Korea’s then President Lee Myung-Bak promised full support to turn the IBS into a ‘dream institute’ attractive to the world’s best scientists. They would be offered an enticing package to lead individual institutes, including a 10 year contract, an average annual budget of approximately £5.5m, and a considerable degree of autonomy over research focus and staff recruitment. Institutes are being set up all over the country in all areas of basic science, including mathematics, chemistry, physics, life sciences and earth sciences.
Now at the halfway stage, 25 of the institutes have been established, and we were delighted to have welcomed nine institute directors to the conference (Professor Rodney Ruoff, Director, Centre for Multidimensional Carbon Materials; Professor Han Woong Yeom, Director, Centre for Artificial Low Dimensional Electronic Systems; Professor Sergey Flach, Director, Centre for Theoretical Physics of Complex Systems; Professor Young Hee Lee, Director, Centre for Integrated Nanostructure Physics; Professor Yeongduk Kim, Director, Centre for Underground Physics; Professor Kiwoon Choi, Director, Centre for Theoretical Physics of the Universe; Professor Yannis Semertzidis, Director, Centre for Axion and Precision Physics Research; Professor Kyungjae Myung, Director, Centre for Genomic Integrity; Professor Jin-Soo Kim, Director, Centre for Genome Engineering).
The Korean delegation, led by IBS President Professor Doochul Kim, a theoretical physicist, met with leading UK scientists to discuss genome science, astronomy and particle physics, and nanotechnology. A plenary lecture was given by Harry Kroto FRS, who spoke of the importance of freedom in pursuing scientific curiosity wherever it may lead.