14-15 November 2024
NTK
Europe/Prague timezone

About the conference

Strategic Support for Science: Main directions and challenges 

The aim of the conference is to clarify the basic questions related to research support for the Czech environment, and to critically reflect on the parameters of our current discussion about them, including their relation to the evaluation of available data and their impact on defining the state’s interest. The aim is therefore to open up and complement key perspectives on long-term research support and its strategic management.

The key issues include those that have already been resonating to some extent in the professional (and to some extent political) debate but that have not always received systematic reflection. Typically, they concern the areas of support for basic and applied research, ratios of institutional and targeted support, or the basic benchmark that relates research expenditure (both total and public) to, for example, a macroeconomic figure – typically a share of GDP, the OECD average, or a comparison with relevant countries. These themes undoubtedly reflect many of the dilemmas and challenges of the current debate concerning science support and they signal the state of our research system in a way that is understandable in both a natural and public–political manner. However, for the same reasons, i.e., a certain notoriety of the recurring themes, we are in the danger of missing other broadening perspectives. Consequently, the plasticity of the picture of the state of research support may be incomplete. Therefore, the aim of the conference must be to critically evaluate the parameters of the current debate and to offer themes that would relate research support to other topics. These may be: a) support for cutting-edge science, b) the sectoral structure of support, c) the Czech Republic’s involvement in international cooperation (especially Big Science and science diplomacy), and d) last but not least, the ability to harness the synergistic effect of our involvement in European multilateral schemes and EU programmes in general. Research support expressed in terms of the structure and volume of funding is intrinsically connected to our ability to evaluate it, especially with a view to finding longer-term directions and consensus on the future directions. At the same time, the conference may be a good opportunity to define the government’s interests in this area. Moreover, it will allow us to reflect on the extent to which a debate concerning the social role of research and its support is currently taking place in the Czech Republic.

Selectivity/support for cutting-edge science. One of the main features of efficient funding is targeted support for cutting-edge science, or the provision of mechanisms that enable the development of internationally competitive teams and scientists in a sufficiently targeted and selective manner. At the same time, mechanisms that appropriately complement the institutional instruments of research organisations and their nurturing of talent in relation to national resources, while allowing for meaningful support at all stages of the careers of top scientists. In the Czech Republic, the debate on the promotion of excellence has recently intensified – what are the possibilities for developing this area in relation to the science support system?

Disciplinary structure. Funding through the prism of disciplinary composition (e.g., also in relation to productivity and international comparison) is an important data input into the debate concerning research support. It has been partly shaped by the historical stratification of funding, including a connection to the evaluation of research organisations, but also by the structure of targeted support provision and the sectoral policies of the relevant ministries. We possess an adequate and solid database to describe and interpret the current situation in detail – what is the connection to the structure of research organisations in the different segments (HEIs, CAS, and government departments). Is disciplinary prioritisation with implications for funding possible? And if so, how should it be integrated into the funding system and its evaluation?

Synergistic work with (not only) European resources. This is not only a multi-source funding technique, but also a tool for shaping research, especially as a pressure to make use of established capacities, synergistic funding that uses the “Seal of excellence” principles, engagement in partnerships, or the forming of consortia. In recent years, the Czech Republic has set up a number of opportunities to take advantage of synergies between the state budget, ESIF, and EU programmes in various combinations. Are we able to build on this in the future? Linked to this is the question of the role of non-public resources and searching for new instruments and ways of support.

International schemes – Big Science and diplomacy. Support in this area serves, among other things, as a response to new types of consortia and the global or European way of “organising research”. It helps to shape the involvement of the Czech Republic in multilateral projects, including massive investments in state-of-the-art facilities and networks with significant political and economic overlap. At the same time, it helps to diversify the research environment. Despite the obvious benefits, its financial demands (including the issue of long-term budgeting) is politically difficult to grasp and poses a significant challenge for the future.

Analysis of instruments – evaluation and diversification. Evaluation is often guided by the perspective of isolated instruments or chapters. For an effective evaluation, a basic cross-cutting diversification is needed, typically taking into account the categories: backbone and support titles, “high-budget” and “standard”, centralised or decentralised (at institutional level). Evaluation is key in terms of eliminating duplications, finding continuities and the optimal level of interventions, and defining the expected impact.

These themes then raise challenges for the future strategic management of research support, in particular in the following areas, which KRECon will address:

  • Are we ready to truly diversify the instruments and their management?
  • How do we approach the “age of consortia”? Are we prepared as regards the necessary conditions related to sharing and merging the management of demanding facilities?
  • How will we make investments (renewal of equipment) after the end or reduction of financing from European resources (ESIF, RRF,...)?
  • What will be the possibilities for disciplinary targeting of support?
  • What will be the strategy and formulation of the Czech Republic’s interests in relation to the financing of its international activities?
  • How will we construct the management of the research system in terms of the state administration structure?
  • What is the role of private sources of research support?

Suggestions for foreign speakers:  

The main contribution of speakers from abroad is to provide an insight into the situation in other countries (relevant to the Czech Republic). The envisioned input is a case study that would focus on or outline solutions adopted/debate taking place in the speaker’s country that are/is similar to solutions adopted/debate taking place (or envisioned) in our country:

  • How were the discussions related to the funding system conducted, what external and internal conditions led to the need to define priorities (goals, milestones) for research support – or converged into the current state of affairs?
  • What is the current situation like, or the current state of implementation – what are the advantages and disadvantages of the current set-up, how have the original expectations or objectives been met (can they be evaluated)?
  • What does the speaker consider to be the biggest challenges and threats for the future?

 

About KRECon 

The annual Knowledge, Research, Education Conferences, KRECon for short, have been held in the National Library of Technology since 2010. The intention is to bring together international and national experts, and other relevant actors in the Higher Education and R&D&I sector and provide them with a platform for discussion on new, not yet settled topics (at least in the Czech Republic) and possibly open provocation questions.

Details

The language of the conference will be English (1st day) and Czech (2nd day). 

The KRECon 2024 conference is free of charge.

Conference Board 

  1. Pavel Doleček (Deputy Minister for Science, Research and Innovation) - chair
  2. Martin Svoboda (Director, National Library of Technology)
  3. Martin Loebl (Vice-chair, Learned Society)
  4. Milan Pospíšil (Rector, University of Chemistry and Technology Prague)
  5. Štěpán Jurajda (CERGE-EI)
  6. Ladislav Krištoufek (vice-rector for scientific and creative activities of the Charles University)

 

The KRECon 2024 Conference is organised by the National Library of Technology in Prague (NTK) and the Section for Science, Research and Innovation - Office of the Government of the Czech Republic under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS, MŠMT in Czech).