A stem cell laboratory at the Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City.
The quality of scientific research in Vietnam is declining, according to the prestigious Spanish SCImago Institutions Rankings.
The SIR World Report 2012 ranks 3,290 research institutions from 106 countries that published at least 100 scientific documents in 2010 as collected by scientific database Scopus by Elsevier.
Vietnam has four institutions that made it to the list have seen their rankings drop sharply since 2006-10 since they are based not only on output but also quality and impact of research.
The Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology in Hanoi is ranked 2,054th, nearly 100 places down from last year, with 1,216 papers, 41.4 percent of them published in world's leading scholarly journals, 6.2 percent down from last year.
The Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City was ranked 2,774th, nine spots lower, with 720 documents. Only 26.9 percent of its papers appearing in high quality publications.
The Vietnam National University, Hanoi slipped 190 spots to 3,155th with an output of 492 and 31.7 percent appearing in quality publications.
The Hanoi University of Science and Technology made the list for the first time, entering almost at the bottom at 3,160th with 488 documents and 32.6 percent.
But Vietnamese scientists said most of the important research was led by foreigners, with Vietnamese only doing the job of data collection.
Dr Nguyen Van Tuan of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research from the University of New South Wales, Australia, said "If Thailand conducts around half of its quality research, Vietnam can only do 10-20 percent," Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted him as saying.
Vietnam should stop trying to publish a larger number of papers, and instead focus on perfecting a smaller number, he said.
The scientists said Vietnam does not invest as much in science as other countries.
Dr Nguyen Huu Duc, deputy director of the Vietnam National University, Hanoi, said: "Countries around the world have determined that investment in science is investment in development, and they spend as much money as needed. We have the same idea but fail to do the same."
Even if Vietnam spends more on science, it needs a more logical system for organizing scientific activities and using scientific funds.
Pham Bich San, deputy general secretary of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, said research should not be separated from education like Vietnam does.
Funds for scientific research are given to research institutes and not universities, he pointed out. It means professors stay at these institutes, and students have no chance to learn from them or participate in research either.
The root of Vietnam's problems in science is the poor quality of education, he said. "I am not surprised (about the rankings)."
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