In Focus of WBC-RTI.INFO: Joint Science Conference (JSC-WBP)

8. Aug 2016 spoke with conference participants from the region about Western Balkans Process

On May 22-24, 2016, the 2nd Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process (JSC-WBP) was successfully organised in Vienna. It was co-organised by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina in cooperation with the Austrian Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the PERFORM-platform (Performing and Responsive Social Sciences; funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Helvetas).

 “The advancement of science systems in South East Europe is not only significant for countries of the Western Balkans but also for Europe,” underlines Anton Zeilinger, President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences: “Science is a central instigator for societal and economic development. Given that scientific knowledge and innovative ideas are not confined by national boundaries, high quality research in the Western Balkans also provides opportunities for all European countries.“

The Joint Statement, which was recently published and it is now online available, includes five key recommendations that are to be taken into consideration by relevant national, regional and international stakeholders:  

  • Build a social and political culture appreciating the relevance of science for open society and economic development. Involve scientists in policy-making and institutionalise communication by establishing National Science Advisory Councils or similar bodies.
  • Apply international quality criteria to and involve international scientists in evaluation and recruitment.
  • Embrace a welcoming culture for attracting outstanding scholars from the diaspora and international scientific community. Guarantee long-term planning security. Offer mobility measures for brain circulation at all career levels.
  • Create national autonomous research funding institutions and depoliticise the science system.
  • Adopt special instruments within Horizon 2020 for WB6 and EU13 to combat inequalities in the EU and develop one central information hub for EU-funded opportunities.

The Joint Statement and its recommendations were presented to political decision-makers who met at the “Western Balkans Summit” in Paris on July 4, 2016. The Joint Science Conference was mentioned in the final declaration of the Summit:

“The parties welcome the joint science conferences held in Berlin in 2015 and Vienna in 2016. They reiterate their recommendation to allocate sufficient funding to research, with 3% of national GDP as a target and ask the national academies of science to propose, by their next conference to be held in France in 2017, funding mechanisms for excellent young researchers from the Balkans, allowing them to gain experience abroad and to create their own laboratories of excellence.” (Final Declaration by the Chair of the Paris Western Balkans Summit)

On the occasion of the 2nd Joint Science Conference, coordinator Ines Marinkovic spoke with three conference participants from the region: Mr. Artan Puto, Professor of Albanian History at Tirana State University, Faculty of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage; Mr. Vlado Matevski, Professor at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, University "Ss. Cyril and Methodius" in Skopje and Vice President of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts; and with Prof. Nexhat Daci, former President of the Academy of Sciences of Kosovo*. They all agree:

"Joint Science Conferences of the Western Balkans Process are important events which support further development of science in the region while emphasising mutual understanding and respect between the regional stakeholders." 

One of the topics that was highlighted by all of the interview partners is related to young researchers and accompanying challenges which the Western Balkan countries are facing – such as “brain drain”, capacity building needs, insufficient funding, unsustainable and/or missing measures/programmes for young researchers or youth mobility etc. Further topics discussed are related to national and regional research cooperation, to current activities of the Academies and the challenges they are facing with, we sporke about Horizon 2020 and about what needs to be done in order to improve participation and success rates in Horizon 2020. The interviews are published and online available:

Read the full article at Website. A selection of topic related events, news, calls, documents, organisations, links etc. is available here.

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Tags: Balkan, Southeast Europe

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