Slovakia offers incentives for young scientists to stay home


Slovakia's new government is hoping to give young scientists cause for celebration. It has decided to double funding for science and research to reach 0.8 percent of the GDP by 2010. Priority is to be given to scientists under 35, who are hoping to finance their research projects through state grants. Anca Dragu explored whether the new cabinet's plan really works in reality:

The government says that the key issue in terms of science and research funding is a reasonable drawing of the EU funds, which requires the co-operation of universities, Slovak Academy of Science and the Ministry of Education. Slovakia will be able to draw a total of 783 million euro in 2007-2013, but it is not clear yet how much will go to research and development.. The Slovak Academy of Science has already benefited from EU funds while developing a programme to support research projects done by scientists under 35 years of age. I talked to one of its beneficiaries, Marketa Derdakova, from the Parasitological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Science. She has been involved in developing a vaccine against ticks. I asked her if the state grant made any real impact in funding her project.

"The money received was very helpful for the start of the project because we could see that there is some money for science in Slovakia too. It showed that not everybody needs to go for a PhD abroad, or look for funds abroad because it is also possible to do some research here. I would, however, appreciate if there will be enough money for our salaries too because there is money for science but not for the living standard of scientists."

What is the biggest problem for young scientists in Slovakia nowadays?

"I think the main problem is the very low income, comparing to the education they receive and the amount of money they would receive if they went working for private companies. I think many scientists go abroad to do their PhD and tray to stay there as long as possible, doing some post-doc, because there is more money in science [there] and they don't face so much bureaucracy. Additionally they can be part of bigger and more experienced research teams. But there are some who come back and try to do science in Slovakia too."

Miroslav Tizik, a researcher from the Faculty of Sociology of Comenius University in Bratislava seems has a different point of view. He says that some fields of research tend to be ignored.

"Social sciences are not something important [for the government], there are not enough competitions for grants for such topics. For the government, natural sciences such as chemistry or others which can be applied to industry are preferred [the government prefers/gives priority to natural sciences such as chemistry that can be applied in industry}. Another problem is the lack of clear rules how to finance research. For example in the contract between to institutions involved in a project it is written that it is not sure how much money they will receive. If we don't get enough money, the state proposes us to change the subject of the research [laughs] but how can we do this? We are interested in studying a certain topic and we have signed cooperation agreements with international partners, we can't change it simply because our government, or the Ministry of Education tells us to do so."

Tizik concludes that the most striking consequence of the lack of research projects in sociology is the fact that students get only a theoretical education and many of them give up a career in sociology. In the end, the state looses money because it paid for the education of some people who will never make good use of their knowledge so it's a poor return on investment for the state.