On 13 November 2019, a round table was held at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava on the topic ´Suggestions for improving science, research and higher education in Slovakia´.
The event was organised by the rectors of four research universities (STU, UK, TUKE, UPJŠ), the President of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, and the President of the Learned Society of Slovakia, and the round table was attended by top representatives of state administration, experts and representatives of political parties (SMER-SD, Most-híd, PS/SPOLU, SaS, Za ľudí, Oľano, Dobrá voľba), experts in science policy, as well as representatives of employers and top innovative companies in Slovakia.
The objective of the meeting was to introduce and get acquainted with the solutions and proposed measures as considered by individual participants of the meeting – key actors in the field of science policy in Slovakia.
At the beginning of the meeting, prof. Peter Moczo, the President of the Learned Society of Slovakia, presented the main basis for improvement of science, research and higher education. He described the situation as very serious and identified the sources of problems on two basic levels:
A) The State has not substantially improved it relationship and support of science, research and education.
He mentioned three main issues in this area: the out-dated law on state science policy (from 2005), the lack of regular international audit of research results, and the overall low financial support of science, research and education and its poor distribution (also influenced by local political and economic interests).
B) Generally, scientists have not put their scientific community in order (although there are some exceptions).
He mentioned three main issues in this area: an oversized, atomised and non-stratified/non-diversified network of higher education institutions (HEIs), the pretence of scientific quality and use of egalitarianism rather than creating a healthy competitive and motivating environment.
This view and division of the set of causes of the critical condition of science, research and higher education were accepted with understanding by the round table participants.
Subsequently, the participants discussed the suggestions for improving the situation. Mr. Peter Moczo presented the proposals of the Learned Society of Slovakia, representatives of political parties presented the proposals included in their programmes, and experts presented a whole range of other measure proposals.
In particular, as the main areas for improvement, the following topics were discussed:
The need for greater internationalisation of science, research, and higher education,
the need for regular audit of scientific results,
the need for stratification/diversification of universities, targeted support of excellence and creation of incentive schemes through diversification of university funding,
the need for efficient and transparent use of EU funds,
the need for a long-term funding concept for institutions, grant agencies and science projects, and an increase in competitive funding of science and research,
the need for incentive schemes to better link the education specialisation of graduates with regard to the needs of social and economic practice.
The discussion was held at a particularly constructive level and a number of conceptual and partial measure proposals were presented. Finally, the participants agreed that:
- The issue of improving the situation in the field of science, research, and higher education is urgent, and requires a change in approach and bold solutions.
- For a coordinated approach, it is necessary to improve and maintain communication flows among individual actors in science policy.
- The key to improvement is consensus on the long-term concept of science, research, and higher education funding.
- Science and research have the potential to become a decisive factor for the successful transformation of the economic model in Slovakia towards greater competitive ability in international competition.