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Junior Scientists' Opinion in the Frame of the Joint Science Conference - Western Balkans Process

Joint Communication Brief of PERFORM and JSC-WBP

BACKGROUND

The German Government with the support of the Governments of France, Italy, Austria, the European Commission, the Governments of Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, FYRo Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia initiated the Western Balkan Process (also known as the Berlin Process) in 2014. The Process aims at supporting the Western Balkans countries (WBC) on their accession path into the European Union, by endorsing reforms, integration efforts and regional cooperation and connectivity. One of the pillars of the Process is dedicated to education, science, innovation and human resources development. This pillar’s activity takes place in the framework of the Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process (JSC-WBP).
 
The 1st JSC-WBP was held in July 2015 in Germany. In its Joint Statement, it expressed a strong interest in improving the position of junior scientists, recognising them as a key actors of science, in need of a reliable perspective in their home countries, making it attractive for them to stay and get involved in the science systems and contribute to the progress of their country and the overall Western Balkans region.
 
PERFORM and JSC-WBP have started a conjunct process for enabling junior scientists to articulate a shared opinion on their position in national science & research systems, in preparation of the upcoming 2nd JSC-WBP in Vienna. The resulted Junior Scientists’ Opinion in the Frame of the Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process focuses on 
  • Key factors that constrain the position of junior scientists in the WBC and especially 
  • Recommendations on how to overcome them.

PERFORM expects this process to facilitate informal and formal networking amongst junior scientists in the WBC. This will result in enhanced intra-regional cooperation, taking a permanent stake in shaping the future of junior scientists in their home countries and the region.
 

JUNIOR SCIENTISTS OPINION +
Junior scientists in the WBC have limited space and freedom to conduct quality research at universities in their countries. Research in general is not valued enough as a contribution towards solving critical issues and problems for society, economy and politics. Furthermore, the interlinking between research advancement and university curriculum and teaching methods is weak and only marginally appreciated. Universities – which harbour the grand share of research activities – tend to consider themselves primarily as institutions for academic education mainly through teaching; research is mostly in the interest and responsibility of individual scholars, lacking de facto the deserved appreciation. Most times, it is the responsibility of PhD students to acquire grants for their doctoral research and mobility at institutions abroad. In such situations, supervisors tend to take on the role of an administrator, rather than that of an academic mentor and senior researcher (group leader).
 
Other constraining factors for junior scientists include:
  • Excessively high teaching loads, which leave minimal time for (high-quality) research;
  • Low or non-existent funding of research by Ministries of Education and Research;
  • Inability and/or unwillingness of universities to provide support services in acquiring research grants and – in the case of contracting an awarded grant – to administrate such grants;
  • Superfluous bureaucracy, which affects mobility abroad (especially for stays longer than one month) and networking in the region or abroad;
  • Weak dynamics and/or existence of systemic immobility in the career path development, which hinder horizontal mobility within the academic and research system, with – inter alia – excessive hurdles for advancement and very long waiting times.
 
Further information on the JSC-WBP can be found under www.leopoldina.org/en/jsc 
 
 
 

 






*Photos by Aleksandar Andjic

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