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.
 
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.
 
Denmark
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.
 

Invitation for the academic, researcher and policy manager community to contribute to the enhancement of Baltic Sea Region-wide mobility

In the framework of the Baltic Science Network MOSTA (Lithuanian governmental research and policy advisory organization) is launching a survey on the Baltic Sea Region-wide academic and researchers’ mobility trends, challenges and potential solutions.

The survey is designed to offer an opportunity for transnational research and academic mobility experts from the managing authorities, as well as researchers and academics based in the Council of the Baltic Sea States´ (CBSS) Member States to provide an assessment of academic and research mobility schemes implemented thus far in the Baltic Sea Region, as well as propose further enhancements to tackle the existing mobility shortfalls.

The survey offers a separate template for research and academic mobility experts from managing authorities (accessible here), as well as a separate template for academic and research community representatives (accessible here).

The goal of the research is to learn how – if it does – the researchers’ mobility impacts the academic performance and transnational competitiveness of the CBSS Member States, as well as individual institutions based in the Baltic Sea Region.

The scope of the surveys covers decision makers, administrators and researchers in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Russia (North Western Region). Should you be a representative of one of the communities invited to the survey, please do not hesitate to make your voice heard. It is a unique opportunity for you as a researcher or a stakeholder of the transnational mobility to become part of the Baltic Science Network and shape its recommendations by devoting five minutes of your time to fill in the survey form.

The results of both surveys will feed into the preparation of Baltic Science Network´s proposals for transnational strategies each designed for a specific area of scientific excellence. These proposals are aimed as guidance for national and regional implementation plans.

Since Baltic Science Network is a flagship of the Policy Area Education, Research and Employability of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the survey is of macro-regional importance. Thus, its findings will also have an impact on the way macro-regional approach is shaped in addressing the matters related to research and academic competitiveness of the Baltic Sea Region. Moreover, the results and conclusions drawn from the survey responses will bear relevance to the future shaping of the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda. The results and analysis of the survey results will be published on the Baltic Science Network´s website.

 
On 7 December 2016 the Baltic Science Network was presented to the Latvian parliamentarians during the meeting of the Baltic Affairs Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee by the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science. This meeting served to discuss the project in a more nuanced manner following the Joint Statement adopted by the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers on 28 October 2016.
 
Dr. Agrita Kiopa, Deputy State Secretary and Director of the Higher Education, Science and Innovation Department at the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science and Inga Jēkabsone, Deputy Director of the Higher Education, Science and Innovation Department at Latvian Ministry of Education and Science introduced the members of Saeima to the main goals of the Interreg project, its planned results, as well as the activities undertaken by the Ministry as one of the partners of the project.
 
Special emphasis was paid to explain how the Latvian engagement in Baltic Science Network will serve to further the interests of Latvia as one of the countries which aims at actively engaging in the implementation of the next Framework Programme in order to further its accelerated innovation performance and develop research infrastructure. In this context, it should be also noted that the European Innovation Scoreboard 2016 outlined Latvia´s outstanding pace and leading position in terms of enhancing its innovation potential.
 
The Latvian engagement in the Baltic Science Network was welcomed by the Latvian parliamentarians. In response to the enquiry, the Ministry expressed its readiness to proceed with similar presentations and discussions in order to inform the members of Parliament about the upcoming developments of the project as well as its results.
 
As outlined, the Baltic Science Network has been endorsed by the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers under the Joint Statement´s section Education, Science and Culture: “The Baltic States are actively participating in the INTERREG project “Baltic Science Network” in order to further develop the Baltic research infrastructure mapping and joint strategies for scientific excellence, to align policies on widening participation in future EU programmes on research and innovation, as well as to improve the mobility tools in research and higher education.”
 
For a more detailed outline on the proceedings of the meeting in Latvian, please proceed to the website of the Ministry of Education and Science here.