Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), etc. have been using the balance of research funds of more than 4 billion won in each professor’s personal bank account and used it for meeting expenses and business trip expenses.
While the National Assembly’s Science, Technology, Information and Broadcasting and Communications Committee’s audit of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), etc., is being conducted on the 18th, Assemblyman Cho Seung-rae (Democratic Party, Daejeon Yoo Seong-gap) received and analyzed ‘Balance Accounts’ submitted by the Ministry of Science and ICT and four science and technology institutes. operation results’.
According to this, the ‘balance account’ operated by three science and technology institutes, including GIST, amounted to a whopping 4.05 billion won.
The balance account is a system in which the remaining research funds after completion of the private consignment project are accumulated in each professor’s individual bank account and used without a time limit. Although there are various names such as individual research support expenses and industrial stay investment integration project, with the exception of some cases such as ‘self-payment of labor costs’, the one thing in common is that the research director can use it without any restrictions on period and use, Rep. Cho explained.
The original purpose of these remaining research funds is to be used for free research exploration activities by researchers, but it is pointed out that there is a high risk of undermining research ethics. Unlike general research funds, there is no limit on the use period, and there are almost no restrictions on usage, so it is close to an ’emergency money bankbook’ that the research director can freely use if he wants, Rep. Cho pointed out.
In fact, as a result of a full investigation of the balance account execution details of GIST, UNIST, and DGIST, which are operating this system from last year to September this year, 4325 cases (59% of the total 7311 cases) were found to be meeting expenses and business trip expenses.
However, due to this problem, KAIST abolished the balance account from last year. This is because inappropriate accounting processing and false execution were discovered in internal and external audits, and even after receiving legal advice, it was pointed out that the system itself has the potential to be illegal. KAIST decided to use the remaining research funds for research exploration activities by temporarily extending the expiration date of the existing research funds account.
In particular, GIST, which has the largest number of balance accounts (160 accounts, 26.15 billion won) in this total survey, has suffered from unreasonable easing of regulations. In 2019, the use of balance accounts for retirees was allowed and additional easing was attempted, but there was also a controversy over the president’s ‘preparation for old age’, who was approaching the retirement age.
Rep. Cho also pointed out that the problem is that the balance account is a system that exists only at the Institute of Science and Technology. Like the Science and Technology Institute, there is no balance account system for government-funded research institutes that perform public and private entrusted tasks.
Rep. Cho explained that the surplus research expenses are either settled on their own or absorbed as institutional operating expenses, and research institutes under the direct control of the Ministry of Science and ICT either return the balance of research funds or absorb them as institutional revenues.
Regarding this, Assemblyman Cho said, “The method of managing the balance of research funds is different for each institution, and some institutions are neglecting systems that may undermine research ethics. “There is a need for institutional reform at the government level,” he said.
The following is the balance account operation status and balance account execution details for each of the four science and technology institutes disclosed by Assemblyman Cho.