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.
 
 
 
 
Scientists would prefer a bottom-up approach for selecting research topics. Several fields with added value in international collaboration were suggested for the nearest future. Digitalisation of cultural heritage, analysis of massive data sets and bio-economy were mentioned most frequently.
 
The second part of the workshop was dedicated to discuss mobility issues in the region. The findings of mobility survey written by Dr Tom Schumacher were presented. Workshop participants were introduced to the ongoing BSN survey led by MOSTA and recent statistics on short-time mobility in Estonia.
 
Once asked for their preferences, scientists highlighted that flexibility offered by the mobility programme is of great importance which would entail several short-term visits to the partnering institutions. Furthermore, regional mobility and cooperation programmes were said to be of great importance for research in the social sciences and humanities. There was an overall consensus that mobility for the sake of mere mobility must be avoided. Newly designed research support schemes must have a clearly defined value-added which preferably would be defined as mobility scheme being an integral part of research work aimed at enhancing the findings developed in the home institution by enriching perspectives obtained in partnering institutions.
 
Moreover, as one of the most valuable benefits of mobility schemes participants identified that it it builds trust between research groups and enables further collaboration and joint applications for projects and funding schemes in the future. Also, it was found that mobility measures should be kept open for global ties and strict regional limitations should be avoided.

To conclude, the workshop´s main findings were that, firstly, increasing the visibility of research groups and their strengths would be an investment for increasing the number of collaborations in the future. Secondly, possibilities for short-term mobility should be increased in the framework of existing mobility schemes.

 
Finland
University of Turku took a stock of the current patterns and challenges related to the research mobility by nation-wide consultations with both national and transnational stakeholders, such as Ministry of Education and Culture, the Academy of Finland, National Agency for Education and Baltic University Programme as well as universities, such as Tampere University of Technology and the University of Helsinki.
 
The mapping process of the overall acknowledged patterns of research mobility was also complemented by such key policy documents as the Academy of Finland’s State of Scientific Research in Finland 2016 review and draft version of Guidelines for International Higher Education and Research Cooperation 2017-2025 by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
 
Among the EU Member States Sweden features as the most often mentioned strategic partner for Finnish research institutions, while Germany, Denmark and Poland are also partners in a number of initiatives. Among closest partners among non-EU countries, China was the most frequently mentioned country with USA and Russia sharing the next place.
 
Further, on the BSR focus is also present when it comes to the Finnish engagement in Horizon 2020. The most important cooperation partners for Finland are Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, as well as UK, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
 
Finnish national support to research mobility thus far has benefited from an in-built quality accelerating factor. Namely, the Academy of Finland trusts that researchers know themselves where the highest quality and most relevant research in their field is. The motivation comes from the researchers’ will to complete internationally recognized high quality research and to network with the best researchers. The Academy of Finland funding is so competitive, that only the highest-level projects and researchers are financed, and they usually are very international.
 
Among the inputs to the consultation process, it was noted that there should be more resources allocated for hosting foreign researchers. On top of salary, starting packages are needed, as well as a complete package of services for families. The salary or scholarship offer should also be generous enough to make sure the top applicants actually choose Finland among other potential destinations put under consideration.
 
All in all, there are promising basis for further reinforced cooperation of Finnish higher education, research and academic institutions with its peers based in the BSR due to the long-standing cooperation experience within the Nordic context, as well as collaboration ties with Russia.
 
Sweden
The Swedish Research Council approached the issue of current challenges to research cooperation in the BSR through discussions with representatives from a number of research and science-related organisations. Three main take-aways for further discussion among the BSN stakeholders for the BSN transnational workshop held in Copenhagen held in Copenhagen were the following.
 
Firstly, it is important to understand the differences in structure (such as organizational landscape, rules and regulations) between different actors. This is a time-consuming aspect, however important for trust-building and can lead to strong collaborations.
 
Secondly, every new funding scheme needs to balance the transaction costs to the estimated added value of the scheme over time. Transaction costs can include the time it takes to write applications, taking part in peer reviews, learning new economic and reporting regulations for grants. Measures should be taken in order to minimize transaction costs.
 
Thirdly, in designing mobility funding schemes, attention should be paid to understand how the funding scheme relates to the merit value of mobility in the career system of each country. When it comes to mobility related to research infrastructures, care should be taken to avoid that the mobility scheme become the incentive to use an infrastructure. The driver should always be excellent science.
 
The BSN workshop overview provides information about the second part of the BSN national workshops. The first or previous overview of the BSN national workshops is accessible here.