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Under the Sun of Do Son

Outside the window, the open sea stretches to the horizon. But inside it's textbooks, pencils, and Powerpoint presentations. Welcome to Do Son, the school where established scientists share the benches with Vietnamese students. The center for ongoing education Do son, a harbor of peace tucked into a seaside resort 120 km north of Hanoi, will welcome this year again (November 12-22) about a dozen CNRS researchers and more than 50 Vietnamese researchers and students.
Over the years, they have come to share their knowledge on topics as varied as electronic spectroscopy, the treatment of solid waste, the security of dams and sea walls, biologically active natural substances and many other themes of interest to the development of Vietnam. This 10th edition is dedicated to geophysics and the prevention of natural risk.
The Franco-Vietnamese school1 was founded in 1999, on Catherine Brechignac's initiative (then CNRS director general) with her Vietnamese counterpart, Dang Vu Minh, from the National Center for Science and Technology–which is now the Academy of Science and Technology of Vietnam.
This initiative aimed to meet the objectives of the francophony summit held two years earlier in Hanoi, which designated Vietnam as a Priority Solidarity Zone. The country thus benefits from French aid to develop its research institutions.
Located far from the major cities, the school encourages researchers to stay for the entire duration of the training program, which primarily consists of lectures (in French, with simultaneous translation in Vietnamese), as well as workshops, round tables, small group study-sessions and, on weekends, excursions to the famous bay of Halong. Beyond its vocation of training, the school aims at initiating research projects between the two countries.
And in the last ten years, this endeavor has paid off. The Do Son schools have almost always resulted in collaboration projects within the structure of CNRS activities, such as international scientific cooperative programs (PICS). Furthermore, the new knowledge gathered at Do Son is rapidly spread across the country as the researchers' work is published each year in the form of Annals, which serve as schoolbooks for other Vietnamese students. “What better way is there to ensure flourishing research in Vietnam and really support its development, than to train its young researchers?” explains Minh-Hà Pham-Delègue, deputy director of Asian Pacific International Relations (DRI) at CNRS.
In 2007, the program will be extended to a second Do Son session, also held in November.2 This session, on grid technology applications in particle physics, biology, and health, will be held at the Institute of Information Technology in Hanoi, open to other Asian countries and taught in English. Even if the format evolves, the Do Son spirit remains unchanged: It aims to promote exchanges and the creation of joint projects.
Half a century after the Indochina war, the success of the Do Son schools is symbolic of the health of Franco-Vietnamese relations. Today, beyond simple economic solidarity, the Do Son initiative exemplifies a mutually beneficial collaboration, and sets the stage for tomorrow's projects.

Lucille Hagège

Notes :

1. Jointly financed by CNRS and the French Embassy in Vietnam until 2004, the Do Son schools are today mainly financed by the French organization and benefit from the support of their Vietnamese partners in mobilizing the Vietnamese students and local organizations.
2. November 5-16, 2007. View web site

Contacts :

> Minh-Hà Pham-Delègue,
DRI, Paris.
> Bernard MELY,
CNRS regional office, Hanoï.


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