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Автор Тема: EU Scientific Funds: Goodbye Poland again?  (Прочитано 1835 пати)


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EU Scientific Funds: Goodbye Poland again?
« на: Мај 21, 2011, 11:08:22 »

Goodbye Poland again?

Response to GREEN PAPER ‘From Challenges to Opportunities: Towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation funding’


The letter with a similar title was sent to the Nature journal few years ago by my colleague who was forced to emigrate from Poland (1). He complained on ancient and outdated structure of career in science, which forced him to look for foreign lab to work. The reason I wrote my letter is different. The years gone, career conditions improved to encourage young people to stay in Polish science and..... still plenty of young Poles emigrate to find their ‘Eden’ abroad. So, what is wrong with Poland now? It is, I believe, something more than we can improve from the inside. It is a cliché of Poland existing in the heads of our Western colleagues. Being more general, it is the cliché of the ‘Ossi’ extended for all Eastern
Europeans, which still haunts the ’Wessi’ in the meaning of all Western Europeans (2). The cliché, which very often (too often) precludes Poles from building their scientific ‘Eden’ at home.

The European Commission has just released the results of another edition of IDEAS ERC starting grants for young investigators ‘competing at the European level’ (3) in which Poland gained 3, out of 400, grants. It is the best result among all closed editions. It happened before that there was ‘0’ (zero) grants for young Polish scientists. For example - and only as example of ‘paneuropean Ossi/Wessi  attitude’ - at the same competition UK gained around 100 grants. Can anybody justify this 3:100 disproportion? How about economic differences? There is 12 200$ income per capita in Poland and 41 500$ in the UK (4) – it does not give 3:100 ratio. So, maybe young Poles are 100 times less clever than young Britons? More difficult to assess but, if anybody shares this attitude, it would be very instructive to look into the names of the ERC winners. One can realise that there are many East European names on the list, also on the UK part of the list. There are such names also with other Western affiliations! So, is it only the bright idea behind the successful IDEAS competition or also the affiliation of the idea submitted is important? Personally, I do not believe that any competition based on ‘scientific excellence, autonomy, efficiency, transparency and accountability’ (3) can give such a huge 3:100 deviation from normal distribution.

Or maybe I should believe? When I look into the Editorial Boards of ‘European Journals of...’ it is rare to read the name with the East European affiliation. When the results of European FP7 calls are published, it is rare to see the East European scientific institutions as participants and even less common to see them as leaders. When I participate in ‘European Congresses of ...’, it is rare to listen to the lecture by somebody who lives in the East Europe. Even Maria Skłodowska-Curie is commonly called Maria Curie [:-)]. So, why all these ventures are called ‘European’?

If our ideas are neglected, then we are not allowed to publish/present our studies, then we are not allowed ‘competing at the European level’(3) for grants as our studies are unknown, and then we are even more neglected and more not allowed to publish, and then... [:-)] – you can start reading this vicious circle from any part of the sentence. Dull to read, dull to live with. We are also bored with it and that’s why we either leave science or emigrate from our ‘less than ideal scientific environment’ (5). Lack of the trust for our results, when we are at home, become an important reason for emigration. But when we work and compete abroad we are not wiser or more stupid, we still keep the same heads and hands. Gaining credibility takes time, notably in science. Unfortunately, the example of ERC starting grants suggest that twenty years after collapse of the iron curtain ‘walls in the heads’ of the scientific community are still durable. All those attitudes are subtle parts of the mechanism of ‘brain drainage’, rather than "brain circulation" mentioned by the ERC Director Jack Metthey in the press release from the last ERC grant competition. If not for equal treatment, we at least deserve a counter-mechanism, which let us create our scientific ‘Eden’ at home.


Piotr Trzonkowski

Piotr Trzonkowski M.D. Ph.D.
Professor of Immunology
Medical University of Gdansk
Department of Clinical Immunology and Transplantology
Debinki 7, 80-952 Gdansk
tel. 0048 58 3491590, 0048 58 3491593
fax 0048 58 3491591
e-mail: [email protected]

1. Szklarczyk A. Nature 2007; 445:792
2. Current (!) definition from Wikipedia: ‘Persisting differences in culture and mentality among the old East Germany and old West Germany are often referred to as the "wall in the head" ("Mauer im Kopf").[1] "Ossi" (easterner, the equivalent for former West Germans is "Wessi") are stereotyped as racist, poor and largely influenced by Russian culture.[2] "Wessis" are usually considered snobbish, dishonest and selfish.’
3. http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ideas/home_en.html
4. Income ranges from BBC webpage
5. Soft piece of citation from FP7 review of one of my grants