South Korea’s first institute dedicated to pure basic research, the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), was established in 2011 with the aim of generating the types of fundamental ‘breakthrough’ discoveries that could propel the country to the global stage and be a new driver of economic and social development.
The IBS created an entirely new research system from the ground up, bringing together the essential components for a fertile research environment; substantial state funding, research autonomy, and a commitment to long-term, large-scale, open-ended research institutes in exploratory and speculative science.
From its headquarters in the hub city of Daejeon, an hour south of Seoul, the IBS has established 30 research centres covering themes as diverse as cognition and sociality, underground physics, RNA, catalytic hydrocarbon functionalizations, artificial low dimension electron systems, neuroscience imaging, climate physics and quantum nanoscience, and is adding new centres every year.
IBS’s particular strength in the physical sciences is reflected in its place in the top 100 global academic institutions in physical sciences in the 2020 Nature Index Annual Tables. This research is facilitated by the institute’s large-scale facilities, such as the Yemilab.
Searching for dark matter
“We know that dark matter must be five times more abundant in the universe than the visible matter we can see, but we still don’t know what it is. It is one of the most critical unknowns in our understanding of the structure and history of the Universe,” says Yeongduk Kim, director of the IBS Center for Underground Physics.