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 Photo credit: Science|Business Publishing

What better timing for introducing Brussels-based audiences to the Baltic Science Network than the hectic months ahead of the adoption of Horizon Europe, the next EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Baltic Science Network was placed at the heart of discussions revolving around science excellence, evidence-based policy, smart specialisation and widening participation during the conference “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse”.

On 26 November 2018, Baltic Science Network (BSN) and Baltic TRAM in cooperation with ScienceǀBusiness organised a conference “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse”. After the BSN transnational seminar held in Tallinn under the auspices of the Estonian EU Presidency, the Brussels conference was the next milestone of BSN in terms of receiving more high-level vision on its work and prepared researcher mobility and cooperation tools.

Throughout five panel discussions among distinguished speakers, such as Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council, Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) of the European Commission, and Christian Müller, Deputy General Secretary of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Dr. Rolf Greve, Director-General at the  Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Jurgita Petrauskienė, Lithuanian Minister of Education and Science, as well as Robert Feidenhans'l, Chairman of the European XFEL Management Board, offered insights in the macro-regional dynamics.

BSR A Science Powerhouse, image 2Photo credit: Science|Business Publishing

Minister Petrauskienė opened the conference held at the Solvay Library in Brussels commending Baltic Science Network for its support towards closer cooperation between EU-13 and EU-15 countries in science and innovation.

BSR A Baltic Science Powerhouse, image 3Photo credit: Science|Business Publishing

During the 1st panel “Horizon Europe: What can the EU science community expect from the next Framework Programme?” Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General of DG RTD, highlighted that while 20% of global R&D and one third of all high-quality scientific publications come from Europe, we fail to transform leadership in science into a leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship. The next EU Framework Programme for 2021-2027 will be the most ambitious programme with the proposed budget of €100 billion and will address these needs. It will continue to drive scientific excellence, will showcase the tangible benefits delivered by science to the society and will scale up breakthrough market-creating innovation through the establishment of a European Innovation Council. One of the most exciting passages in this upcoming work will be Finland’s third EU Presidency period (July 2019 – December 2019).

Maive Rute, Deputy Director-General of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, encouraged this perspective with remarks that Horizon Europe should be focused on impact – keeping at the centre of its attention the outcome and what it can deliver. In this respect she also highlighted opportunities for stakeholders from the Baltic Sea Region in receiving JRC support via smart specialisation, technology transfer or innovative approaches to citizen engagement.

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One of the new components of BSN facilitated discussions was a fresh perspective on the brain drain. While during the concluding panel “Turning brain drain into brain circulation in the Baltic Sea Region” discussion the inception of the term “brain drain” in 1950´s was pointed out, the audience was invited to treat this trend not solely from the perspective of its negative connotations. Christian Müller, Deputy General Secretary of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), argued that a temporal brain drain can be a long-term source of fresh expertise obtained by the country from its citizens living, studying or working abroad. Brain drain opens doors to new collaborations thanks to the citizens who during their stay abroad have established valuable working relations with peers in other countries.

As the most vivid example of such developments served the experience of Marco Kirm, Professor at the University of Tartu, who received tertiary education and advanced training in Sweden and Germany, but his further researcher career continues in his native Estonia, where the University of Tartu benefits from the collaborative ties he has established over the years with renowned research centres.

BSR A Science Powerhouse, image 5Photo credit: Science|Business Publishing

The conference facilitated reflections on research findings prepared during the earlier phases of the project. Namely, Žilvinas Martinaitis, Partner and Research Manager at Visionary Analytics, briefly walked the audience through the main findings of the BSN Working Paper “Study on Research Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region: Existing Networks, Obstacles and Ways Forward”. A recollection of earlier analysis presented during the BSN Riga and Tallinn seminars is kept as an important component not only during the internal, but also external or public debates facilitated by BSN. It is done to ensure that the future work of BSN would be kept in close alignment with its earlier findings and would benefit from complementarities.

The Brussels conference was an inspiring occasion of thought provoking discussions paving the way for the BSN Closing Conference which will be taking placing in Riga on 22 February 2019 (registration open).

Photo album “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse”.

Baltic TRAM overview of the conference.

 

 

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Baltic Science Network takes a step beyond the Baltic Sea Region boundaries and meets at the heart of the EU decision-making – Brussels. This time the gathering helped to explore additional points of intersection in relation to joint actions for more active utilisation of research infrastructures.

On 27 November 2018, after a wealth of inspiring debates experienced during the conference “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse” Baltic Science Network (BSN) members gathered for a meeting hosted by the Hanse Office in Brussels.

The discussions on the findings of three expert groups spurred some exchange of views on the growing importance of sustainability. Riitta Mustonen, Director of Development at the University of Turku, encouraged to think about macro-regional cooperation in research and science as a way how to cause less damage to the environment, especially when comparing collaboration alternatives with geographically distant areas and the carbon footprint generated due to the implementation of such extended ties. Zane Šime, Communication & Research Coordinator at the CBSS Secretariat, added to the role of sustainability a remark that sustainable welfare state as a suggested topic for further exploration has been proposed also in the Working Paper “Fostering Sustainable and Inclusive Labour Markets in the Baltic Sea Region: A Life Course Perspective” delivered by the Welfare State Expert Group.

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Nordic University Hubs were mentioned by Leif Eriksson, Swedish Research Council, among some of the examples to facilitate further consultations on future joint activities. It is a NordForsk initiative aimed at advancing the strategic priorities of Nordic higher education institutions through increased cooperation.

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Among the attendants of the BSN meeting was also Arne Flåøyen, Director of NordForsk. He introduced BSN members to the guiding principles for the funding of joint programmes. Once evaluating a project application, among the key considerations of NordForsk are scientific excellence balanced with such aspects as Nordic added value and even distribution of the funding. NordForsk defers from individual grants to keep the management process as lean as possible.

In addition, the Vienna Declaration on the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) will be kept in mind in the continued drafting of the BSN perspective on research infrastructures. To bring several valuable findings of the Brussels conference forward, BSN will keep the title of the gathering “The Baltic Sea Region – A Science Powerhouse” for its forthcoming publication to be presented to the attendants of the BSN Closing Conference and the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day 2019 (registration open).

 

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Baltic Science Network supported research shapes the discussions on the next hundred years of the Baltic Sea Region. Baltic Science Network earlier findings are revisited in order to keep in mind some of the initial points of departure of the overall debates facilitated by the Baltic Science Network.

On 23 November 2018, Tom Schumacher and Kazimierz Musiał shared with the attendants of the Riga Readings in Social Sciences 2018 “Baltic Sea Region: One Hundred Years On” some insights from their research prepared for the Baltic Science Network (BSN). Both researchers delivered joint farewell remarks of the conference.

Since the 8th EUSBSR Forum held in Berlin a lot of dynamics have shaped BSN. Riga Readings in Social Sciences 2018 was a good timing to look back at the earlier crafted findings and explain to a wider circle of researchers interested in the future of the Baltic Sea Region how the findings enriching the BSN discussions have been shaped and produced.

Tom Schumacher presented insights in the mobility patterns characterising the Baltic Sea Region, which are captured in one of the first BSN commissioned analysis – the Working Paper “International Mobility of Researchers in the Baltic Sea Region”. He offered a more nuanced look at certain country profiles of incoming and outgoing doctoral students, namely, Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Poland. This was a good way how to brief researchers less familiar with the BSN findings discussed across the Baltic Sea Region on such earlier occasions as Fehmarnbelt Days 2016 (BSN follow-up), 7th Strategy Forum of the EUSBSR held in Stockholm and 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) held in Berlin. Since the stated public engagements, two presented BSN publications form a rather important core of the overall understanding among various stakeholders of the Baltic Sea Region what is the current status of researcher mobility and directions of brain flows.

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Kazimierz Musiał explained the hurdles and considerations behind defining scientific excellence, as well as the process of honing the thematic areas proposed for joint research strategies captured in the explorative study “Scientific Excellence: Joint Potentials in the Baltic Sea Region”.

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The farewell remarks was a timely presentation aimed at spurring further interest among broader public in reading the BSN commissioned findings before the BSN Closing Conference and the Baltic Sea Science Day (BSSD) 2019 of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS).

Riga Readings in Social Sciences 2018 offered a valuable passage between an annual conference organised by the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute and the University of Latvia, as well as a continuous sequence of the BSN public engagements, such as the forthcoming BSN Closing Conference and the CBSS BSSD 2019. To further this comprehensive engagement among various foras of the Baltic Sea Region, Kazimierz Musiał invited attendants of the Riga Readings in Social Sciences 2018 to explore the details on the forthcoming 13th Conference on Baltic Studies in Europe 2019: Baltic Solidarity.

 

 

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Students from Russia, who have already benefited from opportunities to study abroad or are considering applying for research mobility, were introduced to the Baltic Science Network – a notable initiative implemented in the Baltic Sea Region in order facilitate further collaborative ties in higher education, science and research across the macro-region.

Baltic Science Network is a prominent collaborative initiative dwelling into the intricacies of research cooperation and science excellence in the Baltic Science Region. Therefore, it comes as a no surprise that the annual statement of Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Secretariat “Science in the Baltic Sea Region as a Public Good” issued on the occasion of the World Science Day for Peace and Development 2018 is touching upon the latest developments of Baltic Science Network.

This message was also paving the way for a discussion on the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda at the CBSS Secretariat. On 12 November 2018, right after the world-wide celebrations of the World Science Day for Peace and Development 2018 a group of students from St. Petersburg was introduced to the latest developments of Baltic Science Network and the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day 2019.

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To place this collaborative project in a broader perspective, meaning, beyond the confines of the CBSS overseen cooperation presented by Daria Akhutina, Senior Advisor at the CBSS Secretariat, Anders Bergström, Coordinator of the Policy Area Education, Research and Employability (PA Education) of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), as well as Leader of the EUSBSR Horizontal Action Capacity, offered an introduction to the macro-regional governance and PA Education flagships. Camilla Wristel and Amanda Nilsson Bognár, representatives of the Swedish Institute, gave an overview of the cooperation programmes open for Russian institutions and other eligible entities.

 

 BSN Consultations in Denmark and Germany

In October, Baltic Science Network held additional consultations with research institutions in order to finalise the details of the action plans.

On 2 – 4 October 2018, Baltic Science Network (BSN) members visited Denmark (Copenhagen and Taastrup) and Germany. The aim of the visit was to gather input for development of intersectoral cooperation and intersectoral mobility, but also on potential ways for future cooperation in the field of large-scale infrastructures. Due to life sciences being one of the three thematic areas chosen by the BSN for developing joint transnational strategies for scientific excellence and a prioritised field in Estonia, the visit largely focused on good practice examples in this science domain, as well as opportunities for future collaboration.

Most of the participants were from the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. However, the Estonian BSN project partner stresses the importance of cooperating with other partners in the field of research, development and innovation (RDI). Thus, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research invited also participants from the Estonian Research Council, Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Government Office, altogether 10 participants, to join the study tour.

Five visits and meetings were organised during the trip. The first visit was to the Innovation Fund Denmark. The overall aim of the institution is to support the development of knowledge and technology, including advanced technology, in order to strengthen research and innovative solutions that may contribute to the growth and employment in Denmark. The visit to the Danish Ministry for Higher Education and Science was mostly focusing on intersectoral mobility. The number of researchers working in the private sector in Denmark has grown during last 15-20 years. Nevertheless, further progress is required to introduce change in the overall work culture and academic career paradigms. The visit to GTS Advanced Technology Group offered an insight into how the institute organises transfer of research and technology to the Danish businesses, especially SMEs. The visit to Fraunhofer IME ScreeningPort offered a closer look to Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, which undertakes applied research of direct utility to private and public enterprises and of wide benefit to society. BSN members were introduced to EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC, the European research infrastructure for chemical biology.

The concluding meeting was held between the Estonian representatives and the Hamburg Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities. First of all, the innovation policy of Hamburg region was discussed. Second half of the meeting was dedicated to the BSN action plans, the expectations and possibilities from the side of the BSN Lead Partner and the BSN Project Partner. BSN future and potential funding modalities were also a subject for further consultations.

The study visit provided valuable input for the forthcoming Action Plans on mobility, spreading excellence and widening participation and the macro-regional cooperation.

 

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Baltic Science Network Welfare State Expert Group has concluded its work with public presentation of the main findings and suggestions for future multilateral research initiatives focused on the Baltic Sea Region.

On 28 September 2018, during a breakfast briefing launching the report “Ageing Workforce, Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development. Political Challenges within the Baltic Sea Region”, wider audiences were also introduced to the main messages of the Working Paper of the Welfare State Expert Group “Fostering Sustainable and Inclusive Labour Markets in the Baltic Sea Region: A Life Course Perspective.

Mi Ah Schøyen, chair of the Baltic Science Network Welfare State Expert Group, highlighted that the Working Paper´s “title reflects some of the core challenges that the welfare states in the Baltic Sea Region are currently facing. We continuously need new and updated knowledge about what kind of social, employment and education policies help our labour markets keep pace with new demands – driven by structural pressures such as rapid technological change, international economic competition and population ageing. To help all individuals find their place in these changing labour markets, they need support throughout the life course and not only through the traditional education system that prepares children and youth for the labour market.”

In a concise fashion Mi Ah Schøyen stressed that “it is desirable that future transnational projects relate to and make use of key analytical concepts that are used in comparative welfare state research internationally. Examples of such concepts are different forms of solidarity, welfare state regimes and the notion of a sustainable welfare state. Finally, it is fundamental for the quality of research that covers one or more of the countries in the Baltic Sea Region that the international research community has free and open access to high-quality, comparative survey data about these countries. This means that these countries have to ensure regular participation in international infrastructures such as the European Social Survey (ESS), the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) to mention only a few important international surveys. In addition, researchers in the region have to be able analyse individual level microdata from sources such as the EU Survey of Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC) and the EU Labour Force Survey (EU LFS).”

Daria Akhutina, Senior Adviser at the CBSS Secretariat, offered the audience up-to-date insights into the CBSS work supporting cooperation in the field of labour and employment.

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The members of the Baltic Science Network welfare state expert group participated actively in the breakfast briefing. This meeting facilitated exchange between different research initiatives supported by the CBSS Secretariat. The presentation of the report “Ageing Workforce, Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development” and the policy brief “A One-size-fits-all Solution for Increasing the Employment Level of Older People?” published by the Max Planck Institute sparked a lively debate between experts on topics such as social policy, labour market integration, and migration.

The breakfast briefing was followed by the concluding meeting of the Baltic Science Network Welfare State expert group. The final Stockholm gathering allowed fine-tuning of the conclusions of the Working Paper to ensure that the recommendations would be presented in a concise way to meet the purpose as a convenient source of guidance for the drafting of forthcoming applications for joint research initiatives.