June 2017 turns out to be a dynamic and busy month for Baltic Science Network. Last week´s discussions in Berlin during the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region were followed by the introduction to the Network during the Policy Area Education Stakeholder Seminar in Stockholm.

 BSN showcased to the Policy Area Education audiences

On 20 June 2017, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions hosted the Policy Area Education stakeholder seminar in Stockholm. The event was aimed at showcasing flagships of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Baltic Science Network (BSN) was presented by Leif Eriksson, Swedish Research Council.
Leif Eriksson introduced the attendants of the seminar to the main goals of the Network as well highlighted the website as a source of information about the progress. As an example he highlighted the most recent BSN publication “Challenges and barriers to research cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region”. In order to provide a brief glimpse in the findings captured by the report, he indicated one of the identified challenges of existing structures and programmes, such as NordForsk and BONUS, covering only parts of the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) or selected research topics. The solution to this challenge would be to expand the existing structures to facilitate researcher mobility on a broader BSR geographical scale and support more research areas. BSN sees the potential of paving the way for further cooperation measures which would complement the existing BONUS and NordForsk efforts.
The seminar also served to acknowledge the value of the first CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day as a crucial forum for enabling broader reflections on how does science and research cooperation in the BSR add up to the overall efforts in advancing the prosperity and sustainability of the macro-region. Anders Bergström, Policy Area Education Coordinator, also informed the seminar attendants regarding the upcoming second CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day to be celebrated in January 2018 in Turku.
Creating the future of the Baltic Sea Region
Katharina Fegebank, Minister of Science, Research and Equalities of Hamburg, welcomed attendants of the Baltic Science Network (BSN) session by outlining the unique character of the transnational platform due to its notable scope of membership. These inspiring remarks were followed by a brief introduction to the Network´s goals, macro-regional added value and expanding membership presented by the BSN Project Director Klaus von Lepel, Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
In order to provide a more thorough background for further discussion of research mobility trends, a number of most recent findings were presented. Namely, Dr. Tom Schumacher presented statistics on how competitive are the Baltic Sea Region states in terms of academic referencing statistics. Consequently, Prof. Dr. Kazimierz Musial, representing the Scientific Foundation Norden Centrum, provided first insights in the on-going research of Baltic Sea Region (BSR) areas of research excellence which will facilitate the reflection process among the BSN members on chosen focus areas. The initial findings indicate that there might be a strong focus on life sciences, marine sciences and climate change.
The second half of the seminar was dedicated to the panel discussion which gathered Minister Katharina Fegebank, as well as an outstanding set of speakers representing some of the leading BSR research centres and research supporting institutions. Prof. Dr. Robert Feidehans´l, Director of the European XFEL, Prof. Dr. Helmut Dosch, Chairman of the DESY Board of Directors, Dr. Kaisa Kononen, Executive Director of BONUS, and Lone Jessen, representing NordForsk, discussed what research excellence means in the BSR setting and how an additional support through enhanced researcher mobility would help the macro-region to excel in the European and international setting. In response to the question regarding the increased competition among countries in terms of research performance Minister Katharina Fegebank and Prof. Dr. Helmut Dosch outlined the long-standing positive effects of vibrant competition among scientists, since it has contributed to the scientific excellence housed in the BSR today. Prof. Dr. Robert Feidehans´l commended the NordForsk Summer Schools as a best practice example in terms of transnationally facilitated researcher mobility. Dr Kaisa Kononen highlighted that the most recent BONUS impact study testifies to the added value of transnational cooperation as an enabler of research excellence, thus also contributing to BSR´s capacity to respond to the contemporary challenges identified on the European and international level. The time-wise demanding process of crafting quality support structures was highlighted by Dr Kaisa Kononen, reminding to the BSN audiences that it took 10 years to prepare the establishment of BONUS Programme.

 Macro-Regional Advancement of Excellence in Science

During the concluding phase of the session Minister Katharina Fegebank highlighted the importance of building closer ties with the society to ensure the overall awareness how the considerable investments in science made today will help to successfully address the societal challenges. It is clear that research investments will not reach their full impact without the public support. Therefore, the cause advanced by the Baltic Science Network would greatly benefit from being renowned not solely on the European but also on the international scale.
Photos of the Baltic Science Network session are accessible on the CBSS album dedicated to the 8th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR here.
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Baltic Science Network Steering Committee meeting took place back-to-back with the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region in Berlin. The meeting was devoted to furthering the on-going discussion on jointly chosen areas for research excellence and BSN position advocacy in relation to the upcoming Framework Programme 9. The exchange of ideas was enriched by an insight in the latest Baltic Science Network´s commissioned study on Baltic Sea Region areas of academic excellence.
The Baltic Science Network (BSN) session “Creating the future of the Baltic Sea Region: Better competitiveness through joint research cooperation?” of the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) paved way for continued discussion on which domains of research excellence would best serve the macro-regional goal of jointly advancing effective responses to the societal challenges. The Steering Committee meeting took place at the Representation of the City of Hamburg in Berlin. The BSN Project Director Klaus von Lepel was pleased to inform the BSN Steering Committee that BSN´s first wave of enlargement seems to be not the last one, since there are other Baltic Sea Region stakeholders interested in engaging in the Network.
The reflection process on the key areas for facilitated researcher cooperation was supported by Prof. Dr. Kazimierz Musial, representing the Scientific Foundation Norden Centrum. He provided first insights in the on-going research dedicated to the research excellence across Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The initial findings indicate that there is a strong support to life sciences, marine sciences and research on climate change, as well as a good academic track record in terms of outstanding academic publications. Moreover, since several of the Network members have an enduring experience in European fund management and strong engagement in the Cohesion Policy advancement, then the smart specialisation has played a prominent role in shaping the research, science and higher education landscape in terms of niche areas prioritised so far.
The sustainability of BSN as a transnational platform for research mobility facilitation was debated in the light of the on-going work towards finalising the BSN Statutes. Due to this notable aspect of BSN, the Network members were especially pleased to greet the Ministry of Education and Research of Norway among the Steering Group members.
Likewise, another prominent item on the agenda was the discussion of BSN joint position on the Framework Programme 9. Such an initiative is considered to further advance BSN aspirations to ensure sustainable support to its agreed focus areas for enhanced BSR-wide researcher mobility.
The meeting was concluded with a brief outline of the upcoming second CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day to be celebrated on 24 – 26 January 2018 in Turku. BSN members as key stakeholders of the CBSS Science, Research and Innovation Agenda were invited to mark this event in their calendar as well as share their thoughts on the most relevant topics for discussions.
Photos of the Baltic Science Network Steering Committee meeting are accessible on the CBSS album here.
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Baltic Science Network had the pleasure of being hosted by the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University in order to discuss the upcoming session during the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and prepare for successful Baltic Science Network´s implementation during the second half of the project.
On 26 April 2017, Baltic Science Network (BSN) met at the premises of the Archipelago Research Institute of the University of Turku on Seili (Själö – in Swedish) island. The meeting served to discuss the preparatory work ahead of drafting the national action plans. The project has concluded its first phase which entailed identifying the existing challenges for researcher mobility and widened cooperation. Now BSN has entered the second phase of preparing suggestion for joint actions. The third phase will be marked by integration of these suggestions in the national action plans.
Moreover, apart from the core project´s work a number of additional initiatives related to research advancement were mentioned in order to enhance the overall awareness of the BSN members regarding the BSR- and European-level topicalities. For example, BSN Work Package 4 Leader Mari Leino from the University of Turku presented information regarding the ongoing public consultation on the Mid-Term Evaluation of the Erasmus+ Programme.

Seili Island Excurision
excursion around the Seili island
Along with a number of other events related to further promotion of BSN, project partners discussed in more detail the upcoming BSN session Creating the future of the Baltic Sea Region: Better competitiveness through joint research cooperation? during the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) which will be taking place on 13 June 2017 at 17:00 – 18:30 in Berlin. BSN will have the pleasure to host a distinguished set of panellists encompassing not only leading national policy makers but also heads of Europe´s renowned analytical research facilities, such as the European X-ray Free Electron Laser (European XFEL).
The consultations were concluded by reflecting on drafting a joint BSN-position on the next EU-Framework Programme on Innovation and Research (FP 9). The initial thinking behind this suggestion is to present a pioneering macro-regional position which would define the Baltic Sea Region-wide interests specifically related to researcher mobility in the context of the upcoming Framework Programme 9. It would serve as an example how macro-regional governance is being further integrated in a Europe-wide domain specific policy shaping process.
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work package consultations
On 27 April 2017, BSN started the day by getting acquainted with the work and focus areas of Åbo Akademi University. BSN was welcomed by Niklas Sandler, Vice-rector for Research Affairs of the University.
The second day of the BSN meeting was dedicated to discuss in greater detail the existing transnational initiatives led by the CBSS Secretariat. Kari Hyppönen, President of the Baltic Sea Region University Network, presented a historical overview of the EuroFaculty. He elaborated a perspective on further advancement options to ensure that EuroFaculty offers a unique niche set of activities complementing the existing activities organised with an aim to support research cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR).
Zane Šime, Communication and Research Coordinator at the CBSS Secretariat, described the main concept of the CBSS Summer University, its adherence to the CBSS long-term priority Regional Identity and gave an overview of the CBSS Summer Universities which have taken place over 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The concluding part of the meeting was devoted to a discussion on how to further promote awareness of the BSN future policy impact among parliamentarians of the BSR. Anders Bergström, Coordinator of the EUSBSR Policy Area Education, Research and Employability, informed about his planned consultations with parliamentarians to further advance the understanding of legislative branch regarding the BSN work. The importance to advance dialogue with parliamentarians specialising in science and research matters was stressed, since advocates of the BSR-wide cooperation have already paved the necessary way for more detailed elaboration of research cooperation initiatives.
During the last week of March 2017 Baltic Science Network has been discussed thorough the Baltic States. The BSN Riga Workshop discussions on widened cooperation were followed by the meeting of Education Science and Culture Committee of the Baltic Assembly in Tartu.
The agenda of the meeting of the Education, Science and Culture Committee of the Baltic Assembly, taking place on 30 – 31 March 2017 in Tartu, covered a number of items relevant to the advancement of performance of higher education and research institutions, such as automatic recognition of diplomas and degrees in the Baltic States, use of scientific infrastructure of the Baltic States. Therefore, the role of advancing a number of these matters via enhanced Baltic Sea Region-wide researcher mobility naturally comes to the fore along with the engagement of the line ministries of the Baltic States in the Baltic Science Network (BSN).
More information and photos of the event are available on the Baltic Assembly's website here.
pdf Download (678 KB) the Press Release (pdf-format)
riga workshopPhoto credit: Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia
BSN Riga Workshop paved way for further preparations in developing new approach for a fully-fledged and joint Baltic Sea Region-wide engagement in the upcoming 9th Framework Programme. The workshop provided a panoramic view at the previous Framework Programmes' and best practices of Latvian engagement in Horizon 2020 calls for project applications. These presentations were aimed at advancing the discussions among workshop participants regarding potential solutions for widened participation of EU-13 countries in the EU funded research programmes.
On 30 March 2017, the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science organised the international workshop Widening Participation in Horizon 2020: Baltic Sea Region on the Road Towards Being the Most Innovative Region in the World at the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the Riga Technical University in order to advance the transnational discussion on the relevant topic.

The workshop was opened by Dr Agrita Kiopa, Deputy State Secretary and Director for Higher Education and Research at the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science. The contextual background regarding the advancement of Framework Programmes thorough planning periods was presented by Dr Dimitri Corpakis, the Former Head of the Closing Innovation Divide Unit of the Directorate-General for Innovation and Research (DG RTD), European Commission. Furthermore, his presentation served to inform project application drafters of Horizon 2020 regarding the supportive Seal of Excellence initiative, which serves as a quality label for project applications of high quality despite the fact that they haven´t been granted the Horizon 2020 funding.

Dr. Žilvinas Martinaitis, Research Manager at Visionary Analytics, presented the initial findings of the upcoming report on widening participation of the EU-13 countries in EU- research programmes, highlighting obstacles for closer cooperation and making suggestions for further actions in order to tackle the existing challenges. Furthermore, the report will outline the core factors behind the success stories of the winning participants´ engagement in Horizon 2020 funded projects. As some of the key obstacles identified thus far in the exploratory phase of the report preparation Dr. Žilvinas Martinaitis identified lack of trust from consortium members to allocate the coordination responsibilities to the institutions from the EU-13 countries and a considerable burden posed by the mandatory bureaucracy thorough the project cycle.

The afternoon presentations were given by project partners, such as the Institute of Solid State Physics of the University of Latvia, Tilde, Riga Technical University and the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, outlining the key factors for successful engagement in Horizon 2020 projects, for example, robust track record of engagement in previous projects. Likewise, the importance of building the network of relevant contacts was emphasised, which shouldn´t be understood simply as a mere fun coffee time but collaborative engagement in practical activities in order to find out whether the interest in joint activities can be translated in further specific actions.

These inspiring sessions were followed by break-out sessions where workshop participants were invited to share their perspectives on such aspects of Horizon 2020 engagement as networking, ensuring quality of project applications, reasons behind the Mathew effect. The closing part of the workshop was dedicated to present the main points raised during the break-out discussions, such as, eagerness of the Baltic States´ research institutions to engage more actively in the Horizon 2020 consortiums and interest in the availability of networking opportunities.

The complete report prepared by Visionary Analytics will be available on the BSN website in June 2017.
The presentations of the workshop are available below the press release of the Latvian Ministry of Science and Education here.

The workshop photo album is available here.
pdf Download (714 KB) this Press Release (pdf-fomat)