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A valuable opportunity for the Vietnamese astronomical industry

This is why this is what happened in Việt Nam

Over the past two decades, we have seen in many parts of the world an explosion of policy trends allowing open access to scientific research, driven by advances in Internet technology. Taking advantage of this free access, my research team has been analyzing and observing for over a year now, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), an advanced (so far) radio astronomy instrument, with the aim of competing with the best research groups in the world.

In 1999, the World Conference on Science made a rather succinct statement: “Equal access to scientific knowledge is not only a social and ethical requirement of human development, but also constitutes a fundamental requirement for fully developing the potential of scientific communities around the world and to guide scientific research. development to meet the needs of humanity.


Since then, UNESCO has been very active in promoting open access to knowledge, with a particular emphasis on scientific knowledge (scientific journal articles, conference papers and datasets) derived from research using public funds. This gives Vietnam a valuable opportunity in training and scientific research. In all fields, we can now download the best and latest lectures from the Internet. Students no longer need to study photocopies of translated materials from outdated American or Russian textbooks, as has been the case for many years (I’m not talking here about basic materials like Landau’s theoretical physics books and Lifshitz, but only textbooks in areas where knowledge progresses very quickly, such as astrophysics). We also no longer need to spend many hours in the library as before to search for documents – not to mention that in the past, not everyone had the chance to work in places with sufficiently large archives; because today we can easily access online archives like arXiv, where more than a million copies of electronic scientific documents are freely available.

As recommended by UNESCO, open access is necessary not only to scientific publications, but also to datasets. For example, CERN recently opened the Open Data portal, the first to provide free public data on proton collisions from experiments at the LHC, the world’s most modern accelerator. As the Director General of CERN once said, we hope that this open data will support and inspire the global scientific community, including students and citizen scientists. Faithful to this spirit, the spirit of openness was emphasized from the founding conference of CERN and, to this day, the scientific publications of this organization are still freely accessible and exploited. This spirit will continue to grow as data on proton collisions becomes freely available in the years to come. This is a truly commendable initiative and will certainly be very useful for educational purposes.

Taking advantage of this free access, my research team has been analyzing and observing for over a year now, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), an advanced (so far) radio astronomy instrument, with the aim of competing with the best research groups in the world. The ALMA data warehouse is a veritable gold mine, a stroke of luck that has enabled a breakthrough in our research potential.

ALMA is a giant system with around sixty mobile antennas of 12 or 7 m in diameter, with a baseline of up to 16 km, located at an altitude of 5,000 m on the Atacama desert plateau in Chile . It observes at wavelengths from 3 mm to 400 μm (84 to 720 GHz). Unrivaled sensitivity, spatial and spectral resolution offer a clear improvement over other contemporary instruments. It is operated in cooperation between Europe, the United States and Japan, with contributions from Canada, Taiwan, South Korea and Chile. The goal of making observations freely available to the public is clearly expressed in the resolution adopted by the 2003 general assembly of the International Astronomical Union:

Recognizing that scientific progress must be based on full and free access to data; that for the benefit of astronomy as a whole, data archives should be made as widely accessible as possible, particularly in the context of current Internet technology, which can help to do this economically and efficiently; that the development of the Online Observatory will enable the effective use of such archives, thereby increasing the efficiency and scientific output of astronomical research;

Whereas there may be times when the right to use observation time at important astronomical facilities may be necessary and reasonably limited for financial or other reasons; that once data is acquired from these devices, access to the data is generally limited as necessary and reasonable for a certain period of time (“exclusivity period”, generally one to two years). to observers, students, instrument makers or certain other specific groups, so that after investing time and resources in observing activities at the observatory, they will have sufficient opportunities to publish its results; but after the exclusivity period, in many cases the data must be placed in a repository where it is more widely accessible to the public;

[Vì vậy] data obtained from publicly funded national or international observatories during the exclusivity period will be made available only to observers or certain users, but after the exclusivity period they must be exclusively placed in an archive where all astronomy researchers can access it via the Internet. The data must be accompanied by metadata and other information or tools to ensure their scientific value. The form and processing of data may be appropriately protected by copyright law, but the use of data archives for legitimate purposes (including educational purposes) should not be limited. ); Funding agencies should advocate and support that data from the astronomical research they fund be placed in archives for unrestricted public access, after the end of the data exclusivity period.

The above views are widely accepted in the astronomical scientific community, and much effort and money have been invested in strictly following these instructions. Specifically, in the case of ALMA, the raw data has been processed by the specialized service into a form suitable for users, and at the same time, users also benefit from question and answer services from the specialized service. It can be said that the ALMA team has put a lot of effort into helping process the data to meet the needs of the public.

With this, ALMA data can be widely used, whether the users are leading research groups around the world or groups like our group in Vietnam. The only cost is waiting a year. In a country where support for basic science, not only materially but also spiritually, is very weak, this is a valuable asset that must be fully exploited.

Perhaps those responsible for S&T and education and training in Vietnam do not properly appreciate the value of this opportunity; Many people still think that Vietnam should focus on investment in equipment and facilities, or think that if they want to participate in international cooperation programs, they have to pay very high fees. When in reality we need to invest in brainpower and not in concrete buildings or expensive equipment imported from abroad.

So, provided that observation of the Universe is also completely free, it is a good time to encourage national research in astronomy. Managers should have policies to support training, support seminars, and sponsor short-term visiting activities for international or foreign Vietnamese scientists.

Currently, many students are sent abroad to study master’s and doctoral degrees. We need to fund their research projects when they return home to make the best use of their skills and talents. These projects may be very small and do not require much cost, but if we invest in the right place, the benefits are many. If they cannot do this, their talents will quickly disappear and the resources invested in their training will be completely wasted. They will have to find income in other jobs and their minds will be removed from science and research.

I would like to end this article with a quote from a group of American scientists involved in processing huge amounts of astronomical data (RJ Brunner, SG Djorgovsky, TA Prince and AS Szalay, Handbook of Datasets big data, Kluwer Academic Publishing, Norwell , Massachusetts). USA, 2002, p.931-979): A major change is occurring in the field of astronomy and space sciences. Astronomy has suddenly become a data-rich field, with a wealth of digitized information on the results of sky surveys at many different wavelengths. […] We can now map the Universe systematically and in color. This opens the way to new scientific research, both quantitative and qualitative. […], enables scientists and students around the world, even without direct access to large telescopes, to conduct high-quality research. This will energize the industry, opening the door to unprecedented amounts of data for new talent.

According to Thanh Xuan

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