A 2018 story told by prof. Tran Thanh Van

Attracting over 200 participants who are scientists, diplomats, executives, educators and representatives of international organizations—150 of whom were from 40 countries – the conference “Science for Development” on May 9-10 was part of the 25th  anniversary celebration of Rencontres du Vietnam held at the International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Education (ICISE). Both are closely associated with Prof. Jean Tran Thanh Van, a Vietnamese French physicist.

By My Le 

The participants spent much time exchanging views on global issues—climate change and local situations, such as the case of Vietnam—as well as research results of the relevant possible consequences and repercussions. Also under discussion were technical solutions and alternative production methods. Notably, speakers mentioned ways in which scientists and politicians can come closer in the context of a tenser world going on. Some solutions to the problem of building constructive international partnerships were worked out for the sake of sustainable development, highlighting the role of science diplomacy. Addressing the relationships between policymaking and science, with a practical view from Vietnam, Le Hong Linh, vice director of the Office of the National Assembly, maintained that science should become an integral part of the policymaking process, not only being a source of criticism or comment. In doing so, there should be policies on promoting scientific research, he said. At the same time, policymakers have to make use of scientists’ research results. Nguyen Quan, former Minister of Science and Technology, tried to make simple Vietnam’s current scientific and technological policies so that foreign scientists could comprehend them. Quan said discrepancies were being tackled; therefore, foreign partners should take them into account when having cooperation with Vietnam.

Sowing seeds

According to Prof. Tran Thanh Van, a way to contribute to education and training of Vietnam’s future generations is investment in human resources. A group of theoretical physicists has been closely attached to ICISE. Among these people are Dr. Le Duc Ninh, 37, and his wife, who returned to Vietnam after eight years working at a university in Germany. Ninh said he came back to Vietnam because of ICISE’s organizational model and Prof. Van’s connection which could help the young scientist be in touch with his professional scientific circle. Another reason is ICISE can relieve Ninh from the burden of livelihood and the pressure of having to publish scientific articles in international magazines. ICISE also provides an excellent green working environment which is essential to scientific research. When asked whether there was something unsatisfactory after two years working at ICISE, Ninh said he would be regretted only if he failed to fulfill his goals. Fundamental science research, argued Ninh, takes a lot of time and the beginning is almost always tough.

Another young scientist, Dr. Huynh Nam Khoa, 28, from the Energy Research Institute of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, said he met Prof. Van and his wife, Prof. Le Kim Ngoc, when Khoa was still a PhD. candidate in the island state. ICISE was still in the making at that time. Khoa said he expects ICISE to prove its worthiness and attract more scientific conferences in addition to those of Rencontres du Vietnam. Khoa is taking part in a project to help ICISE meet that goal, starting first with concrete tasks. The above concerted efforts have been made in the hopes that ICISE would become the nuclei of the “creative scientific valley” in Quy Hoa, Quy Nhon City. Immediately before the conference, the Prime Minister had given his endorsement in principle so that Binh Dinh authorities could establish a scientific and educational urban center whose core is ICISE’s creative scientific valley. The Prime Minister stated strongly that the Government is ready to provide incentives in scientific research in Vietnam in general and Binh Dinh Province in particular on a case-by-case basis. Previously, in an attempt to realize an initiative by Rencontres du Vietnam, Binh Dinh Province’s People’s Committee had allocated over 200 hectares of land in Quy Hoa where the country’s first scientific and educational urban center will be built. Taking ICISE as its focus, this future urban zone will be centered around by research institutes, training facilities, and scientific and software parks.

Spillover effect

The above ecosystem which is to give rise to scientific research and creativity on the spot is expected to emerge soon. During the conference, as a keynote speaker in the discussion about scientific impact on society, Dr. Nguyen Huu Le—a native of Binh Dinh Province who 18 years ago left Australia for Vietnam to establish and head TMA Solutions,
a successful software maker—introduced his project to set up and produce software programs at the future urban center. Le said he is seeking foreign partnerships for his project to transfer technologies. TMA has also cooperated with Quy Nhon University and other training institutions in Phu Yen and Quang Ngai provinces to train local human
resources for the software industry.

On his part, Prof. Tran Thanh Van has attempted to promote the passion for science and knowledge by conceiving and designing a project to build the “scientific space complex” whose funding sourced by the State has been approved. That is the first step for implementing the model of Quy Hoa scientific and educational urban center. The complex
would provide space for scientific discoveries of children and citizens, through which science can become closer to the public and scientific passion and creativity can become pervasive. So far, the complex’s “hardware” has been basically completed and part of its “software”—from playing to learning—has been finished to serve the first viewers—the international scientists who came to attend the conference who would give their feedback.

Prof. Tran Thanh Van (far R) introducing 1999 Nobel laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft (2nd, R) and 2004 Nobel laureate Finn Erling Kydland (3rd R) Prof. Tran Thanh Van (far R) introducing 1999 Nobel laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft (2nd, R) and 2004 Nobel laureate Finn Erling Kydland (3rd R)

Look at the photo depicting how excited Gerard ‘t Hooft, the Nobel laureate in Physics in 1999, and his wife were when they tried the children’s games and one may imagine how effective the programs might be. Each game is linked to a theorem or a principle in mathematics, physics and so on. In the beautifully designed premises of ICISE is a garden where each world-famous scientist who has come there has grown a tree. Aside from the garden’s owner, Prof. Tran Thanh Van, some are Vietnamese—such as Ngo Bao Chau and Trinh Xuan Thuan. It is expected that in the future more trees will be planted by Vietnamese growers.


Rencontres du Vietnam, initiated and managed by Prof. Tran Thanh Van since 1993, is a venue where international scientists gather to exchange views and train scientifc human resources for Vietnam.

In 2013, the International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Education (ICISE) came into being in Quy Nhon City, Binh Dinh Province. So far, ICISE has organized 40 international conferences which lured over 3,500 scientists of whom 12 professors are Nobel

Source: the Saigon Times Weekly, 26-5-2018

Link: https://www.thesaigontimes.vn/272963/chuyen-ke-nam-2018-cua-giao-su-tran-thanh-van.html