Ms Katariina Röbbelen-Voigt, Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities, Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

On 9 November 2016, in Stockholm, Sweden, the Baltic Science Network (BSN) was presented to the macro-regional stakeholders at the 7th Strategy Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) during the session “Do we need a macro-regional dimension in higher education, science & research policy in the Baltic Sea Region?” The session was moderated by an experienced expert of macro-regional governance, the Project Manager of the Interact Point Turku Baiba Liepa.

At the beginning of the session the BSN Project Director Klaus von Lepel, representing the Hamburg Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities, introduced the EUSBSR stakeholders to the BSN, outlining its main goals, current scope of membership as well as its embeddedness in the existing transnational and macroregional governance structures. He outlined that “from the very beginning all national or regional decision makers in the field of science policy are members in the network. Since they are already being involved in the development of transnational strategies and tools, it is more likely that after the drafting phase all involved parties will be willing and able to implement them.”

The session served to outline the existing academic mobility patterns, where the brain drain seems to affect most of the Baltic Sea Region countries, except Denmark and Norway. The main destinations of talent outflows are the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Ukraine. Iceland was singled out as the most active and interconnected country among its Baltic Sea Region peers in terms of engagement in cooperation initiatives within the macro-region.

This bird´s-eye view on academic and researcher mobility patterns was further complemented by the BSN Project Manager Katariina Röbbelen-Voigt, representing the Hamburg Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities, who introduced the attendants of the session to the main findings of research paper written by Dr. Tom Schumacher (Kiel University) “International Mobility of Researchers in the Baltic Sea Region”. In addition, the representative of the BSN from the University of Turku Riitta Mustonen outlined the need for preparing mobility monitoring tools: “We have to have more comparable data and statistics and also knowledge about drivers in order to facilitate mobility.” University of Turku highly appreciates opportunities to host researchers from other institutions, since their perspective also helps to shape the development strategies of the university.

This assessment of the general Baltic Sea Region-wide landscape was complemented by Jelena Angelis, Deputy Director of Technopolis Group Baltics, who presented reflections from evaluations of mobility related programmes performed by Technopolis Group on behalf of various research and higher education policy-makers. She named the key driving forces for mobility which are opportunities for personal capacity building, opportunities for empirical research (typically by access to research infrastructure), development of strategic networks, the want to be less dependent of senior superiors in the home institutions, the need to find an option of devoting time exclusively to elaboration of the doctoral thesis or collaborative research, unstable position at the current work place as well as disappointment with the leadership of the current work place.

The panellists discussed the way forward in developing the Network as a long-standing macroregional platform. The Coordinator Anders Bergström of the Policy Area Education, Research and Employability of the EUSBSR highlighted the incremental process of advancing the macroregional goals, where flagships are built on project chains. Namely, the BSN serves as a telling example of taking the lessons learnt from science and research projects pursued by the support of other funding schemes in order to advance transnationally coordinated actions.

One of the concluding remarks raised by Jelena Angelis was regarding evaluation and impact assessments. Although evaluation of this Interreg project a year or so after its end date is valuable and will shed light on performed activities and developed results, it is important not to rush into assessing impacts. It was highlighted that the impact of policy tools drafted during the project will need several years in order to show their true value. In other words, the real potential of the Network will not be demonstrated in 2020, thus the overall outcomes should be discussed in later period around 2023-2025. The panel came to an agreement of joint support towards advancing macro-regional research and academic policy.

BSN panel stockholm nov 2016Graphic recording by Raquel Benmergui.

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