Starting in November 2016 throughout December 2016 and January 2017, partners of the Baltic Science Network hosted national workshops across the Baltic Sea Region, assembling representatives from universities, research and academic institutions, national managing authorities as well as business sector in order to discuss challenges and barriers to research cooperation and mobility – and possible solutions in terms of enhancing macroregional cooperation.
The national workshop in Denmark took place on 30 November 2016 in Copenhagen, hosted by the Danish Agency for Science and Higher Education (DAFSHE), as part of the BSN activity related to the identification of current challenges and barriers for science and research cooperation. Among the participants of the event were representatives from Copenhagen University, Aarhus University, Roskilde University, Denmark’s Technical University, Aalborg University, Copenhagen Business School, GEUS (Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland), NIVA Danmark (Norsk Institutt for Vannforskning), and Baltic Development Forum.

At the workshop, DAFSHE presented a new analysis of the impact of publications co-produced by researchers from across the BSR, as seen from a Danish perspective. Also, DAFSHE gave an overview of the trend in terms of the number of research projects between Denmark and each BSR-country, financed by EU’s framework programmes (from Framework Programme 6 to Horizon 2020). DAFSHE concluded that BSR publications have a relatively high impact and that there seems to be a steady increase in the number of BSR-research projects over time.

For the second part of the workshop, participants engaged in a discussion on a number of themes and questions, in particular about best practice examples of research cooperation in the BSR, what constitutes an added value of regional cooperation, what are BSR-relevant research themes, mobility issues, and which factors that – as seen from a stakeholder perspective – constitute challenges and barriers to further BSR cooperation in research.

These findings will be also discussed during the macro-regional workshop on 18 January 2017 in Copenhagen, hosted by DAFSHE.
On 15 December 2016, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research organised the national Baltic Science Network´s (BSN) workshop in Tartu. The objective of the meeting was to receive input from the leading national policy-makers which will feed into the drafting of BSN´s joint transnational strategies for specific areas of scientific excellence as well as the Estonian national action plan which will support the implementation of these strategies.

Among the attendants were not only representatives of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research but also members of the Estonian Research Council. The Council was invited to the debate since it represents Estonia in international organizations, coordinates participation in cooperation programmes (MOBILITAS, EURAXESS, COST), and supports international cooperation through counselling and financing. Thus, it is a major national institution in the context of the national science and research policy landscape.

One of the major findings of the event was that definition of mutual strategic interest, increased networking, and promotion of the use of joint resources is one of the most valuable benefits acquired by the region, and donor institutions should try to promote specific multilateral initiatives which would help to advance the joint expertise in specific scientific areas. Macro-regional cooperation is the type of collaboration that should be further supported in order to obtain the required critical mass for addressing regional (and global) challenges. It is of special importance due to the fact that if the Nordic cooperation is excluded, there are no direct national measures currently in place for increasing mobility between countries inside the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The national strategy for cooperation mentions the necessity for cooperation with the Nordic and Baltic countries, but no direct funding instruments have so far been developed. The workshop attendants recognized that there is a need for funding short-term repetitive mobility and virtual mobility.

According to OECD statistics, Estonia is doing well in cooperating with international partners. Such cooperation is mostly driven by the interest of researchers. When putting this into the BSR-specific context, it is crucial to define why we need a special cooperation within the macro-regional area and in how it differs from other kind of international cooperation.

From the national point of view further Estonian engagement in defining action implemented as result of the BSN´s designed mobility tools will be influenced by the recently launched Estonian Research International Marketing Strategy 2016-2022. It specifies the objectives of the international marketing of Estonian research and also suggests courses of action for the future, for the 2016 – 2022 time frame, in order to support the internationalization of Estonian research.
Further on, the national debate revolved around the most optimal ways of reaching the BSN´s goals. Participants concluded that setting joint macro-regional goals with moderate implementation time frames would be one of the ways how to best anticipate the end-result of planned activities. This kind of approach would increase the public support in allocating additional national funds for advancing research, development and innovation. Such investments would increase the overall competitiveness of the BSR in terms of its research potential and performance, as well as promote the overall reputation of a scientific career.

The seminar was concluded by remarks that cooperation is a matter of choice and has to be built on real benefit from cooperating with the other. As possible benefits the workshop attendants identified cost efficiency (e.g., shared infrastructure usage), obtaining the critical mass of scientists on specific research subjects to raise the overall level and pool of expertise in a certain science field, multidisciplinary environments stimulating novel approaches, the benefits of acquired knowledge and contacts through networking.
Germany hosted two national BSN workshops covering the mobility of researchers and transnational cooperation in science and research. First workshop took place on 24 November 2016 in Kiel hosted by Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Science and Equality, Land of Schleswig-Holstein. Second workshop took place on 7 December 2016. It was hosted by the BSN Lead Partner, the Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
Both Ministries invited researchers and scientists as well as representatives of the international offices from all universities, academia and non-university research institutions based in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein to provide their suggestions how to enhance the BSR-wide academic mobility. The workshops assembled a great variety of experts from such areas as basic analytical research and humanities. Namely, the following institutions were present: Hamburg University, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, HafenCity University Hamburg, Hamburg University of Music and Theatre, Kiel University, Flensburg University, University of Applied Sciences Kiel, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY, European XFEL, Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology (Itzehoe), Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (Geesthacht), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (Plön), Leibniz-Center for Medicine and Biosciences (Borstel), Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (Schleswig), German Academic Exchange Service, Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, Hanse-Office (Joint representation of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein in Brussels), Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg, Life Science Nord.

There were several obstacles for researchers´ mobility identified which should be addressed in more detail in the future work of BSN. One of them is the regional difference in terms of funding structures. Another is lack of international infrastructure, such as, kindergartens and schools, in the smaller cities which play a major role when it comes to deciding whether a researcher would be able to relocate with her or his family or not. Another factor posing considerable obstacles towards reinforced mobility is the lack of flexibility of the PhD programmes in terms of incorporating in them periods of research pursued in another peer institution.

The workshops were concluded with a number of valuable recommendations. It should be outlined that the post-doctoral programmes were suggested for the collection of research mobility data, since this group of researchers is the most mobile one. In order to draft more targeted policy recommendations a differentiation should be made between mobility in teaching and mobility in research, as well as in physical mobility and digital mobility.

One solution to facilitate the BSR-wide mobility would be to establish a cooperation platform or database assembling universities and companies willing to host foreign researchers for a certain time. Further exploration regarding the causes of imbalances in terms of regional performance and gender representation in research mobility schemes should be pursued. In order to make the new transnational mobility schemes a success, special attention should be drawn towards ensuring that smaller scale funding programmes are alleviated from too cumbersome administrative requirements. These recommendations should be implemented in line with the approach of the BSR being the test-bed for new solutions in the domain of transnational research mobility and potentially transferable best practices.
On 15 December 2016, the Latvian Ministry of Science and Education organised the BSN´s national workshop in Riga. Among the attendants of the event was the National Contact Point for the Horizon 2020 representing researchers, as well as members of the Latvian Council of Science and representatives from the Ministry of Science and Education and the State Education Development Agency.

The event was organised in order to reach a common understanding on the need to prioritise the BSR cooperation in the context of other existing geographical cooperation initiatives.

The attendants of the workshop also discussed differences in terms of innovation performance gap between the so called, EU-13 and EU-15 as the main challenge for successful cooperation. In order to tackle this issue, workshop participants reflected on various existing BSR-wide cooperation measures and best practices, as well as identified the added value of such collaboration.

These discussions helped to map the main points for the upcoming transnational debate which will take place in February 2017 in Riga. The transnational seminar will be devoted to exploring the most appropriate measures in ensuring widened cooperation among research and higher education institutions in the BSR. The proposed widening measures primarily will be linked to the expansion of available BSR-wide mobility schemes.
Lithuania held two national workshops to discuss challenges for research cooperation and researchers´ mobility in the BSR.

On 13 December 2016, policy makers and administrators involved in transnational research cooperation shared their views regarding the existing mobility challenges. It was a gathering of representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science, Research Council of Lithuania, Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), the State Studies Foundation, Research and Higher Education Monitoring and Analysis Centre (MOSTA). On 15 December 2016, researchers based in Lithuania were invited to discuss the same issues. Among the participants of the second Lithuanian national workshop were Vilnius University, Centre for Physical Sciences and Technology, Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuanian Institute of History, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, as well as Vilnius Gediminas Technical University.

These workshops aimed to provide a platform for various stakeholders, such as the leading representatives of the academic community, policy-makers and decision-makers, as well social partners. Discussions revolved around the current state of researchers’ mobility, how to geographically focus and foster it. Issues related to effective incorporation of existing research and innovation mobility schemes were also a subject of opinion exchange, placing it in a broader context of the BSR.

Participants suggested that researchers’ mobility should be supported from the state budget in order to ensure its continuity. Support from the European Structural and Investment Funds could be used for other interventions that would be available for periods when no other funding is available.

Another suggestion raised during the workshop was that Lithuania should establish targeted policy measures to attract researchers from abroad for two to three years’ period. Special conditions could be guaranteed for such short term research visits. Such mobility facilitation should also entail a more nuanced discussion regarding other supportive incentives, such as tax and social environment matters also relevant to the potential foreign researchers coming to Lithuania.

Large scale research infrastructures in relevant research fields in Sweden, Germany or Finland also might serve as attractive destinations for leading researchers, thus nurturing the overall mobility inflows in the BSR.

Researchers and representatives of the academic community recognised that cooperation should be viewed from the perspective of specific research topics. For example, laser research might be an attractive domain for cooperation with Germany or Sweden. In terms of health sciences closer links could be nurtured with Finland and Sweden. Areas of cooperation might be identified by mapping the existing cooperation schemes and their results. Large scale infrastructures like synchrotron radiation facility in Hamburg, as well as the European Spallation Source in Lund were mentioned as particular research infrastructure elements which could facilitate the choice in terms of domain specific cooperation.

One of the conclusions of the workshop was that changes should be implemented in the national research policy fostering researcher’s mobility – starting from reviewing existing measures and then launching new measures that are needed. Secondly, there should be a strategy in place how to increase research excellence. It should be noted that this remark corresponds to the BSN´s plans to draft a limited number of transnational strategies for specific domains of academic excellence.
On 12 December 2016, the University of Gdańsk held the workshop “Challenges´ for researchers´ mobility in the Baltic Sea Region” assembling representatives from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, scientific institutions, universities (e.g. Gdynia Maritime University), investment and transfer management authorities. The workshop was dedicated to discuss the most optimal ways how to advance the macro-regional science cooperation. The aim was to identify obstacles and challenges related to the current trends of academic and research mobility and to map potential solutions also taking into consideration experience of other BSN´s members.

Therefore, the attendants also discussed potential solutions for attracting more PhD students from abroad. Another issue raised by the experts was the need to ensure that the Polish PhD students would devote their time to their core research work and less to other paid work which is not directly linked to their academic duties.

The workshop attendants suggested preparing a map of expertise in order to have a good overview in which areas which key stakeholders with the relevant experience and knowledge could be engaged in multilateral mobility projects with their peers from other countries. They suggested the model of cooperation in which the needs for specific research or innovation tasks are expressed by enterprises and institutions, and the transnational network would be responsible for finding the partner(/-s) having proper expertise and research infrastructure to meet the specified demand. In this model small and medium-sized enterprises should be given some initial support in order to ensure their ability to properly describe and explain their innovation needs, as well as to obtain some knowledge about available funds for starting this kind of cooperation.

As sources of inspiration and best practices, which should guide further work in designing the map and pursuing closer science-industry cooperation, the attendants mentioned maritime clusters in Hamburg and Kiel, the start-up accelerator program PortXL in Rotterdam. Research institutions based in Turku were also presented as good examples of matching the demand and supply sides in the area of science and innovation.

The BSN workshop overview provides information about the first part of the BSN national workshops. It will be followed by the second overview of the BSN national workshops which are taking place in January 2017.