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Baltic Science Network had the pleasure of being hosted by the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University in order to discuss the upcoming session during the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and prepare for successful Baltic Science Network´s implementation during the second half of the project.
 
On 26 April 2017, Baltic Science Network (BSN) met at the premises of the Archipelago Research Institute of the University of Turku on Seili (Själö – in Swedish) island. The meeting served to discuss the preparatory work ahead of drafting the national action plans. The project has concluded its first phase which entailed identifying the existing challenges for researcher mobility and widened cooperation. Now BSN has entered the second phase of preparing suggestion for joint actions. The third phase will be marked by integration of these suggestions in the national action plans.
 
Moreover, apart from the core project´s work a number of additional initiatives related to research advancement were mentioned in order to enhance the overall awareness of the BSN members regarding the BSR- and European-level topicalities. For example, BSN Work Package 4 Leader Mari Leino from the University of Turku presented information regarding the ongoing public consultation on the Mid-Term Evaluation of the Erasmus+ Programme.

Seili Island Excurision
excursion around the Seili island
 
Along with a number of other events related to further promotion of BSN, project partners discussed in more detail the upcoming BSN session Creating the future of the Baltic Sea Region: Better competitiveness through joint research cooperation? during the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) which will be taking place on 13 June 2017 at 17:00 – 18:30 in Berlin. BSN will have the pleasure to host a distinguished set of panellists encompassing not only leading national policy makers but also heads of Europe´s renowned analytical research facilities, such as the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (European XFEL).
 
The consultations were concluded by reflecting on drafting a joint BSN-position on the next EU-Framework Programme on Innovation and Research (FP 9). The initial thinking behind this suggestion is to present a pioneering macro-regional position which would define the Baltic Sea Region-wide interests specifically related to researcher mobility in the context of the upcoming Framework Programme 9. It would serve as an example how macro-regional governance is being further integrated in a Europe-wide domain specific policy shaping process.
 
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work package consultations
 
On 27 April 2017, BSN started the day by getting acquainted with the work and focus areas of Åbo Akademi University. BSN was welcomed by Niklas Sandler, Vice-rector for Research Affairs of the University.
 
The second day of the BSN meeting was dedicated to discuss in greater detail the existing transnational initiatives led by the CBSS Secretariat. Kari Hyppönen, President of the Baltic Sea Region University Network, presented a historical overview of the EuroFaculty. He elaborated a perspective on further advancement options to ensure that EuroFaculty offers a unique niche set of activities complementing the existing activities organised with an aim to support research cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR).
 
Zane Šime, Communication and Research Coordinator at the CBSS Secretariat, described the main concept of the CBSS Summer University, its adherence to the CBSS long-term priority Regional Identity and gave an overview of the CBSS Summer Universities which have taken place over 2014, 2015 and 2016.
 
The concluding part of the meeting was devoted to a discussion on how to further promote awareness of the BSN future policy impact among parliamentarians of the BSR. Anders Bergström, Coordinator of the EUSBSR Policy Area Education, Research and Employability, informed about his planned consultations with parliamentarians to further advance the understanding of legislative branch regarding the BSN work. The importance to advance dialogue with parliamentarians specialising in science and research matters was stressed, since advocates of the BSR-wide cooperation have already paved the necessary way for more detailed elaboration of research cooperation initiatives.
 
 
During the last week of March 2017 Baltic Science Network has been discussed thorough the Baltic States. The BSN Riga Workshop discussions on widened cooperation were followed by the meeting of Education Science and Culture Committee of the Baltic Assembly in Tartu.
 
The agenda of the meeting of the Education, Science and Culture Committee of the Baltic Assembly, taking place on 30 – 31 March 2017 in Tartu, covered a number of items relevant to the advancement of performance of higher education and research institutions, such as automatic recognition of diplomas and degrees in the Baltic States, use of scientific infrastructure of the Baltic States. Therefore, the role of advancing a number of these matters via enhanced Baltic Sea Region-wide researcher mobility naturally comes to the fore along with the engagement of the line ministries of the Baltic States in the Baltic Science Network (BSN).
 
More information and photos of the event are available on the Baltic Assembly's website here.
 
pdf Download (678 KB) the Press Release (pdf-format)
 
 
riga workshop
 
BSN Riga Workshop paved way for further preparations in developing new approach for a fully-fledged and joint Baltic Sea Region-wide engagement in the upcoming 9th Framework Programme. The workshop provided a panoramic view at the previous Framework Programmes' and best practices of Latvian engagement in Horizon 2020 calls for project applications. These presentations were aimed at advancing the discussions among workshop participants regarding potential solutions for widened participation of EU-13 countries in the EU funded research programmes.
 
On 30 March 2017, the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science organised the international workshop Widening Participation in Horizon 2020: Baltic Sea Region on the Road Towards Being the Most Innovative Region in the World at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the Riga Technical University in order to advance the transnational discussion on the relevant topic.

The workshop was opened by Dr Agrita Kiopa, Deputy State Secretary and Director for Higher Education and Research at the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science. The contextual background regarding the advancement of Framework Programmes thorough planning periods was presented by Dr Dimitri Corpakis, the Former Head of the Closing Innovation Divide Unit of the Directorate-General for Innovation and Research (DG RTD), European Commission. Furthermore, his presentation served to inform project application drafters of Horizon 2020 regarding the supportive Seal of Excellence initiative, which serves as a quality label for project applications of high quality despite the fact that they haven´t been granted the Horizon 2020 funding.

Dr. Žilvinas Martinaitis, Research Manager at Visionary Analytics, presented the initial findings of the upcoming report on widening participation of the EU-13 countries in EU- research programmes, highlighting obstacles for closer cooperation and making suggestions for further actions in order to tackle the existing challenges. Furthermore, the report will outline the core factors behind the success stories of the winning participants´ engagement in Horizon 2020 funded projects. As some of the key obstacles identified thus far in the exploratory phase of the report preparation Dr. Žilvinas Martinaitis identified lack of trust from consortium members to allocate the coordination responsibilities to the institutions from the EU-13 countries and a considerable burden posed by the mandatory bureaucracy thorough the project cycle.

The afternoon presentations were given by project partners, such as the Institute of Solid State Physics of the University of Latvia, Tilde, Riga Technical University and the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, outlining the key factors for successful engagement in Horizon 2020 projects, for example, robust track record of engagement in previous projects. Likewise, the importance of building the network of relevant contacts was emphasised, which shouldn´t be understood simply as a mere fun coffee time but collaborative engagement in practical activities in order to find out whether the interest in joint activities can be translated in further specific actions.

These inspiring sessions were followed by break-out sessions where workshop participants were invited to share their perspectives on such aspects of Horizon 2020 engagement as networking, ensuring quality of project applications, reasons behind the Mathew effect. The closing part of the workshop was dedicated to present the main points raised during the break-out discussions, such as, eagerness of the Baltic States´ research institutions to engage more actively in the Horizon 2020 consortiums and interest in the availability of networking opportunities.

The complete report prepared by Visionary Analytics will be available on the BSN website in June 2017.
 
The presentations of the workshop are available below the press release of the Latvian Ministry of Science and Education here.

The workshop photo album is available here.
 
pdf Download (714 KB) this Press Release (pdf-fomat)
 
From transnational BSN workshop in Copenhagen, 18 January 2017

From transnational BSN workshop in Copenhagen, 18 January 2017

What are the challenges, barriers, and possible solutions to improving research cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region? This question has been the topic of discussion at a series of national workshops and surveys in Germany, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and Denmark during the winter of 2016, conducted as part of the “Baltic Science Network” – a new flagship project of the EU Strategy for the BSR launched last year with financial support from Interreg - BSR.
 
Based on output from national workshops and surveys, stakeholders singled out the most relevant challenges and talked more about possible solutions for each key challenge at a transnational workshop in January 2017 in Copenhagen. The results have now been summarized in a working paper.
 
All in all, the workshops brought together stakeholders from universities, research institutions, operators of research infrastructures, funding agencies, BSR experts and policy makers to try and answer this simple yet complex question.
 
Many interesting points of view were exchanged, rebutted and elaborated – and the overall conclusions are perhaps not very surprising: Research cooperation across borders is a healthy and natural part of scientists’ pursuit of excellent research results. The Baltic Sea Region is relatively successful in terms of an increasing number of EU financed research projects involving partners from several countries in the region. Also, impact studies suggest good results of this cooperation. But there is room for improvement – both to support excellent scientific results and to enhance macro regional competitiveness and cohesion. Stakeholders have pointed to a number of relevant challenges to ensure such improvement, e.g. high levels of administrative burdens and lack of strategic coordination.
 
A more general, cross-cutting conclusion is that these challenges are not only relevant in a macro regional context but in a broader EU context as well. And indeed, one of the purposes of the Baltic Science Network is to help support the implementation of the European Research Area via good ideas generated in the context of the Baltic Sea Region.
 
The purpose of the working paper is not to present an aligned policy proposal for enhancing research cooperation in the region. Rather, the purpose is to provide an inspirational map, based on input from stakeholders, for further exploration, subsequent activities and future policy recommendations for discussion among the members of the Baltic Science Network.
 
 
Jurgita PetrauskieneIn December 2016, the Lithuanian Research and Higher Education Monitoring and Analysis Centre (MOSTA) launched a survey in order to map Baltic Sea Region-wide academic and researchers´ mobility trends. The Baltic Science Network´s transnational workshop in Vilnius “Researchers’ Mobility in the Baltic Sea Region: Where Do We Stand and How to Move Forward?” served to introduce wider audiences to the results of this survey, as well as to learn about the mobility schemes existing in the Baltic Sea Region. The workshop also offered a more nuanced look at BSN national discussions and country-specific challenges, thus facilitating the mapping of potential solutions and how they could be addressed in a joint, transnationally coordinated manner.
 
The event was opened by Ms. Jurgita Petrauskienė, Minister of Education and Science of Lithuania.  The Minister defined the Baltic Science Network (BSN) as an initiative of specific relevance to research advancement in the Baltic Sea States. Ms. Jurgita Petrauskienė’s opening remarks were followed by presentations of representatives of the European Commission and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Namely, Paul Harris, representing the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture  of the European Commission, presented an overview of the different Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and other EU programmes enabling the mobility of researchers. Dr. Holger Finken (German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD), presented the Marie Curie COFUND-supported DAAD postdoctoral programme P.R.I.M.E. (Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience) and provided a nuanced analysis of DAAD supported fellows as well as the main science domains represented among them. It should be noted that DAAD was invited to the BSN workshop as one of the long-standing mobility services in the BSR.

Dr. Tom Schumacher (Kiel University) introduced the workshop attendants to the main findings of his report “International Mobility of Researchers in the Baltic Sea Region”. The basic statistical picture of mobility trends was complemented with a country specific analysis, which leads to a number of conclusions relevant to further discussions on the advancement of research excellence in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR).  Namely, for many BSR countries the main mobility partners are located outside the region. Mobility patterns differ between lower and higher career level researchers: the higher the career level of a researcher, the more distant the mobility destinations are pursued. Researchers living and working in small states can benefit more from being internationally mobile than their colleagues in big states. Brain drain versus brain gain patterns of researcher mobility aren't simply questions of quantities of human resources and their migration flows but also of quality brought to the research centres hosting these individuals.

In January 2017, partners of the Baltic Science Network continued consultations with representatives from universities, research and academic institutions as well as national managing authorities in order to map challenges and barriers to research cooperation and mobility – and possible solutions in terms of enhancing macroregional cooperation.
 
Estonia
On 9 January 2017, the second part of the Estonian national seminar of the Baltic Science Network (BSN) took place in Tallinn, Estonia. Meeting was organised by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research in order to discuss the development of research and innovation excellence, and mobility in research and higher education in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The objective of the meeting was to receive input from the point of view of representatives of Centres of Excellence, universities, enterprises and researchers. This input is vital for the upcoming drafting of the national action plan.
 
The meeting started with an introduction of the participants to the Interreg BSR project BSN, its major achievements in 2016 and main goals related to further implementation of the project. The seminar explored the diversity of cooperation levels associated with science, research and higher education domains.
 
The attendants introduced the best practices of BSR-wide cooperation from their own experience, such as the participation of Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in the Nordplus Music programme, University of Tartu´s engagement in the Baltic TRAM project, Tallinn University of Technology´s engagement in the Baltic University Programme, the participation of several institutions in European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) actions and engagement in Bonus Art. 185 program, DESY and MAX IV to name a few. The national workshop also entailed elaboration on the main barriers to the research cooperation. Participants outlined that in certain research areas, for example, cultural studies and humanities, regional approach to research cooperation is essential component of project´s success since it capitalises on cultural, historical and geographical ties historically present and nurtured in specific geographic areas.
 
Researchers found that additional funding for basic research should be increased with a focus on supporting cooperation with partners from peer institutions with a similar performance track. One of the ways suggested for increasing the number of future cooperation opportunities would be to increase the overall awareness of research mobility opportunities among potential cooperation partners, as well as outlining the strengths of existing working groups.