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Acceptance Speech, Danida Alumni Prize 2019, Dr Phan Thi Van


Ladies and gentlemen,

In 1997, I was so lucky to receive a Danida scholarship to do an MSc in aquaculture at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2005, I had again the good fortune to be given a Danida fellowship to do a PhD in epidemiology and food safety in aquaculture at Copenhagen University, Denmark.

And today, it is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here, to give this speech in front of you, in beautiful Denmark.

The Danida scholarships put me on the path that led me through gate to the world of science. As a Danida fellow, I learnt how to approach research problems, how to choose the most appropriate research methodology in a given situation and how to write scientific papers in order to communicate scientific research. Studying in Denmark strengthened my skills in using research methodologies and it equipped me with the necessary skills to solve complex research problems and ultimately it made me a better scientist.

My collaboration with Danish scientists also inspired me to work effectively with others and to relate to people in a meaningful way. My stay in Denmark made me appreciate the value of cultural diversity and the importance of incorporating different perspectives in research and all other matters.

Nowadays, in all scientific fields results are expected to come in fast and to cost less in order to solve problems in the most effective and ethical way for society. These demands cannot be fulfilled unless there is global scientific collaboration as well as knowledge sharing. Please remember, if we don’t collaborate, we cannot generate knowledge and knowledge is not knowledge unless we share it. Luckily, we now have advanced communication technologies, we have the Internet and it is easy to travel. It is therefore easier than ever to collaborate and share knowledge. At the end of the day, this benefits you, me, and all human beings and it contributes to making a better society. Therefore I strongly believe in international research collaboration and knowledge sharing.

According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2018), aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector with a 5.8 percent annual growth rate since 2010. In 2018, aquaculture production in Vietnam reached 4,15 million tonnes with seafood having an export value of more than 9 billion USD (D-Fish, 2018). The aquaculture sector could not have achieved this without the contributions made by science, global science collaboration and knowledge sharing.

During my studies, living close together with many fellows from other countries at Danida Fellowship Centre (DFC) made me appreciate and respect the other Danida fellows and their cultures through our daily interaction as well as information sharing and debates. My network, therefore, also grew bigger. The study stays in Denmark not only made me a better scientist but also changed my view of life therefore made me a better person in many ways.

I am deeply honoured to be recipient of the Danida Alumni Prize 2019 and so proud to be the first female to receive the Prize.

As a scientist, working in the aquaculture sector, I see that the benefit of being a woman in science is being patient. It is a strong attribute in science and it probably comes from taking care of the family and children, because when doing research, especially in aquaculture, most of the time we must be patient enough to repeat the experiments both in the laboratory and in the field. As the director of Research Institute for Aquaculture No.1 (RIA1), with around 200 staff and 9 centres located in different provinces in Vietnam, I was also inspired by the women in leadership positions at DFC and learnt so much from them, including hands on practices in management. We are now proud that 50 % of the people in leadership positions in RIA1 are women. Respecting my staff, what motivates them and their lives beyond work are important elements in my management style.

To be honest, doing a PhD was not always easy, but my professors, Annette Kjær Ersbøll and Anders Dalsgaard, walked me through. I will never forget the meaningful time of my life being their student. They always encouraged me but they also always challenged me by posing difficult research questions. Working with my supervisors also made me more mature in scientific communication. I can never thank them enough for all that they have done for me. Apart from being my supervisors, they also became my friends. Annette always cared for me and often brought food for my Vietnamese dishes and left grapes from her garden on my table. On my birthday she pasted Vietnamese and Danish flags on the door of my office room. This was the first time I had ever got flags on my birthday as a Danish birthday tradition and that made me so happy. Anders was always so calm and open whenever my temper rose during an argument. He always knew how to end our arguments by finding a positive way forward. The knowledge they shared with me is always in my mind, their consideration and openness towards to me will remain in my heart for the rest of my life.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Danida, DFC, Copenhagen University, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Research Institute for Aquaculture No1, Vietnam. I would like to thank my colleagues and friends for their encouragement and support and I would also like to thank the aquaculture farmers for their collaboration.

Special thanks go to my parents, brother, sisters and relatives for all their love and support. My father, who speaks several languages and went to teach mathematics in Angola, is my great inspiration. Thanks and love also go to my stepsons, my daughter-in-law, grandchildren and my sweet daughter for who they are and for their love. Last but not least, I would like to thank my beloved husband, who loves, cares, supports and gives me endless encouragement to develop my career.

I agreed to accept this Prize because I respect DFC’s goal and believe that it provides me with an even greater opportunity to share knowledge. I am deeply committed to sharing and building collaborative knowledge – within my organization and sector in Vietnam and as an active member of the global scientific community.

Once a Danida fellow, forever a Danida fellow with great pride.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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