Prof. Trần Thanh Vân, founder of Recontres du Vietnam – a development initiative that has brought the world’s renowned scientists to Việt Nam for discussions since 1993 – talks with Việt Nam News reporter Hoàng Anh about this year’s event which marks 25 years since the first meeting.
Among the many distinguished scientists in attendance at this year’s Recontres du Vietnam conference at the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and Education are two Nobel laureates – Prof. Gerard’t Hooft, Nobel prize winner in Physics in 1999 and Prof. Finn Kydland, Nobel prize winner in Economics in 2004. Why did you decide to invite them to Việt Nam?
It was my wish for them to get to know Việt Nam better, to help connect Vietnamese scientists with renowned scientists from around the world. For instance, Prof. Kydland will meet and talk with teachers and students in Huế. That’s what we have always tried to arrange for our distinguished guests: to have them talk to Vietnamese young people and students, encouraging them to follow in the path of science.
This year marks the 25th year of Recontres du Vietnam, what special events are you planning for this important milestone?
The first Recontres du Vietnam was held in 1993 with around 60 international scientists and 40 Vietnamese. I want to invite many of the original guests from back then to attend this year’s meeting on August 5-11. It will be a much different conference than the first, which will only focus in scientific topics and almost exclusively for scientists and researchers.
There will be many renowned scientists, among which two or three Nobel winners have confirmed their attendance. One of them is a very special guest for me on a personal level for he was the one who inspired me to follow a career in science. He used to serve as advisor to Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping and helped China develop the country. I hope his presence will emphasise the important role of science in national development. It will be another opportunity for Vietnamese scientists to meet and connect with some of the most brilliant scientific minds from around the world.
Why did you choose Bình Định as the location for ICISE and not one of the well-connected cities such as Hà Nội or HCM City?
One of the reasons why we chose Bình Định was because it was not well connected to the rest of the country. We wanted scientists to come here only for science and not for any other reasons.
It was also because of the enthusiasm of the provincial authorities in their support. The province fully understood and supported our goal of building a centre for scientific development. Another important reason why we chose Bình Định over other locations was because the province is home to Quy Nhơn University.
What are your recommendations on the development of science in Việt Nam?
We have to accept the fact that the development of science in Việt Nam is lagging compared to the rest of the world. Therefore, it is imperative for us to learn from the international science community, to open our doors and invite them to come and help us develop.
This is why our conferences aim at attracting an international audience with international impact. Of course, it also provides a venue for Vietnamese scientists to meet and exchange ideas with their peers from around the world. We have set up study groups which consist of both foreign scientists and young Vietnamese scientists to help them build their relations and further co-operation.
What contributions are Vietnamese scientists and policymakers bringing to this year’s conference?
There will be more contributions and participation by Vietnamese scientists and policymakers at this year’s event. For instance, we are trying to have at least one Vietnamese at every round-table discussion this year and it is a very good sign. It is my hope that Vietnamese scientists and policymakers will continue to attend our conferences. It is important to communicate our goals and vision for our country’s scientific development with the international community.
What projects is ICISE working on to improve its education and research capacity?
The most important asset in the development of science is human resources. We need young scientists who are willing to work and take risks. We have two PhD graduates who came back to Việt Nam after completing their studies overseas to work at the centre.
It is my wish for them to take root here in Quy Nhơn, to dedicate themselves and grow following the path of science. Currently, we have two groups who are working on research in the fields of theoretical and practical physics.
Our priority is to encourage young scientists to follow their own path, to have freedom to explore science and reach their full potential. The important thing to note about science is even if one out of a million scientists discover a breakthrough it will be a huge step for science as a whole. — VNS