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Singularity Professors Represent the Future of Research at KAIST
KAIST will launch a Singularity Professor track, which gives more freedom to researchers for pursuing their research goal. This more flexible and creative research environment institutionally supports researchers as they dive deeper into their research for a longer period of time without any strings attached. The track was established in an effort to ensure more competitive researchers who can lead the way for new advances in science and technology. This innovative research initiative is part of KAIST’s expansive effort to envision and position itself to build global research competitiveness in the wake of its 50th anniversary in 2021 and beyond. From this year, KAIST will select two to three research faculty for this special track with full-scale funding for 10 years. Singularity Professors will have their annual performance evaluations waived for 10 years. Instead, their research will be reviewed in their fifth year. The professors in this track will not participate in government-funded R&D projects and be fully funded by KAIST’s endowment. In addition to those newly hired into this track, Singularity Professorships are opens to existing faculty members. The selection criteria are very simple but highly demanding: one who can pivot an existing academic paradigm or invent a new discipline by presenting a novel scientific theory. KAIST recently hosted a briefing session for current faculty members and encouraged them to apply for the new track. As part of the selection criteria, the research topic’s innovativeness, feasibility, and appropriateness will be major factors for this track. Employment under this track will continue for up to 20 years. After receiving an evaluation of Very Satisfactory at the end of first ten-year contract, another ten years will be added. President Sung-Chul Shin, who has pushed for this system since he took office in 2017, said during the briefing session, “It takes quite a long time to bear fruit in academics, especially in science. I am very delighted that KAIST is paving the way for building a longer-term research environment which allows full and longer commitments for research that the faculty is excited to try. That’s the first step to sow the seeds for bearing fruit in academics, especially in science.” This is a paradigm shift to embrace transformation in a new era. The new institutional strategy supports the change from a fast follower to a first mover during these technologically turbulent times. Under its Global Singularity Research Projects initiative, KAIST already selected focus research topics in the most challenging as well as most creative fields of neuro-rehabilitation, new materials, and molecular optogenetics. “Especially in the post-COVID era, we have a very clear mission for the world. Our knowledge should translate into global value that can benefit those suffering from this pandemic, and mitigate the inequity coming from the digital discrepancies,” President Shin added. (END)
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