Czech Science Foundation signs unique cooperation agreement with US counterpart

An agreement reached between the US and Czech science foundations will allow scientists from the two countries to coordinate research and receive funding together. The deal has been years in the making and will give the Czech scientific community access to grants from the prestigious US agency for supporting research, the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The agreement aims to foster long-term collaboration between Czech and American scientists in the fields of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, astrophysics, and the social sciences. As such, it is the most extensive attempt made by Czechia and the US at scientific cooperation to date. For the first time, Czech scientists will be able to work on projects funded by the National Science Foundation, which has in the past sponsored hundreds of Nobel prize winners and groundbreaking inventions. Luděk Moravec, who is the science and technology attaché at the Czech embassy in Washington DC, explained how the project-selection process will work:

Hynek Kmoníček,  Luděk Moravec | Photo: Jan Kaliba,  Czech Radio

“Applications will be evaluated solely by the American side. That makes the process very competitive, but also prestigious. If the American agency concludes that a project is worthy enough, then that team will receive financing from both agencies.”

According to Moravec, the deal is a great achievement for Czech diplomacy as far as scientific cooperation is concerned:

“From the Czech perspective, it is very significant. There is no comparison with our other agreements and accords in terms of its range, meaningfulness, and in the work our people committed to it in preparing various projects that helped build and create the environment that led to this deal. This is incomparably bigger and incomparably more significant.”

The Czech ambassador to the United States, Hynek Kmoníček, said that Czech diplomats had been working for two years to promote negotiations between the Czech and American science agencies. He thinks that the deal fits into a larger context of global politics and is part of a joint effort by the US and Europe to compete technologically with China.

“It is also a strategic step in that the Euro-American civilization has been trying to stand up to challenges from Asia for quite some time now, and it is naturally also a question of security for us, as this shows quite a large amount of trust. The American National Science Foundation does a lot of projects connected to American security. So it is not always easy to be let in this close to their often top-secret projects. We are, of course, very glad since for us it is not just a question of our higher security framework but also of the presentation of the Czech Republic in the West as a country that has something to offer to world science. That is something that makes us a significantly more trustworthy and more valuable partner than we would be otherwise.”

Scientists will be able to start sending applications to receive grants later this year, and selected projects will be financed proportionately by the NSF and its Czech counterpart. There is hope that cooperation will lead to discoveries that would not have been made had Czech and American researchers not worked together.