chapter  1
6 Pages

Introduction: Why this book?

ByDAGMAR KUTSAR AND ILONA PÁLNÉ KOVÁCS

The special feature of a large number of the countries that joined the European Union (EU) in 2004 and 2006 is not simply being economically poorer than the EU15 ‘old’ member states. The Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries bear some common cultural characteristics originating from the historical past. These common features are to be found in the institutionalisation and operation of their research and development systems, as well. In the Central and Eastern European countries, the significance and the

political weight of science and scientific research have usually only increased at the level of slogans. Not only is the volume of public and private resources rendered to science and research far lower than the proportion of similar resources in Western Europe, but the social reputation of research activities and researchers and their impact on public policy is too. In addition to the worse financial and infrastructure conditions, the objectives, tools and institutional system of science policy are also not compatible in every respect with the more advanced Western European science. Concretely, the real positive impact of the modernisation in the fields of

science management and finance are restricted by the rather less sciencefriendly social and political attitudes, the state losing functions and the backward institutional system of public services. It is especially important to emphasise the lack of public policy institutions serving so-called strategic planning in the Central and Eastern part of Europe. Due to the modest interest of the governmental sphere to establish a stable professional institution and mechanism of public policy analysis, the expansion of applied research serving better foresight and becoming more and more characteristic in the Western part of Europe is hardly experienced. Therefore, it is probable that further disadvantages will emerge in the Central and Eastern European region concerning the ‘frontier research’ announced within various European scientific programmes. Unlike engineering, natural and medical sciences, social sciences in the

Central and Eastern European countries started from scratch after the collapse of the totalitarian system in the early 1990s. Suddenly almost every essential scientific element of life had to be obtained and implemented: ideological turnover, curriculum development, Western literature, academic contact, funds,

command of a common language of communication, skills for doing research in international and interdisciplinary teams of researchers and, last but not least, they had to build networks for taking joint academic action. Catching up with Western Europe is blocked particularly by the several

decades of isolation of the Central and Eastern European research community (primarily in the social sciences), and the loose links to international networks that continue to be the privilege of the narrowest scientific elite. As a consequence, Western social scientists (and also some within CEE

countries) have since been seen as remaining under the research patterns inherited from the communist era and giving biased explanations of social research data. The widespread misunderstanding of the post-socialist societies that they simply lag behind the West according to all macro and micro indicators, has led to underestimation by Western scholars of the resources and challenges, or assets, that the CEE social sciences have. The recognition of low competitiveness and unused potential in European

research led to the establishment of the European Research Area (ERA). In March 2000 the Lisbon European Council endorsed the objective of creating an ERA as a strategic environment of research and development. This important milestone meant new challenges for science policy to build a European Knowledge Society in line with European social objectives preconditioned by the formation of a coherent and academically excellent community of researchers. The ERA concept involves three aspects, namely the European internal market for researchers and knowledge; a European co-ordination of national and regional policy; and EU-funded common scientific actions, or collaborations. Since then, many initiatives have been taken, but there are still strong

national and institutional barriers to achieve these ambitious goals. In 2007 a new period of ERA was launched by the elaboration and wide public discussion of the Green Paper1 assessing the results achieved so far and identifying the new perspectives in research and development strategies. Justifying the necessity of change, the Green Paper argues that the fragmentation of European public research space remained, the mobility of researchers was hampered, national research funding systems were unco-ordinated, and national reforms were lacking a true European perspective and coherence. The consultation on the Green Paper showed the diversity of aspects, interests

and values concerning the science.2 There was general agreement on the advance of the critical mass of research capacities and also on the priority of a competitive type of EU funding accepting the common or unified evaluation system during the selection of excellence. On the other side, however, many emphasised the national and cultural diversities that were to be considered and, therefore, there was little enthusiasm for the more extensive and stricter EU intervention into the governance issues of national academies and universities. Interestingly, the Green Paper and the reports on consultation hardly dealt

with the special regional aspects; neither did they focus on the situation of social sciences in Europe. Investigating the opinions reported by the EU Commission a symptomatic fact was revealed: during the consultation

process, most of the responses came from the old member states while the new democracies kept silent. In spite of that, several respondents mentioned that EU support should be distributed according to variable geometry, focusing on the less developed countries and regions. As one opinion from Poland brought up the East-West divide, the regions lagging behind require more support and help through access to EU funds. Contrarily, most of the stakeholder groups rejected the top down approach to scientific co-ordination, preferring national and regional initiatives. Some contributors mentioned the insufficient interest in problems such as ‘brain drain’, young scholars’ mobility and diversity of salaries due to existing socio-economic inequalities in Europe. It was suggested that more attention should be devoted to research organisations in these regions, which needed specific support for stronger cross-border collaboration. The Green Paper gave examples of this problem, with a preliminary conclusion that the ERA-Net programme could be successful only with the existence of well-defined national and regional programmes. After the public debate on the Green Paper the Council of the EU accepted

the common 2020 vision for the ERA in the spirit of the Ljubljana process.3

The reform was launched with more emphasis on sufficient governance arrangements using the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC). Being optimistic, we could expect that these arrangements will contribute

to more coherent scientific life producing a more competitive knowledge base for Europe. However, there is scepticism about the ERA, even within the circles of leading scientists and scientific organisations. Looking at the landscape of Central and Eastern European social science makes us even more pessimistic. During the pre-accession process in the early 2000s, the European Research Advisory Board formulated opinion on the enlargement and the ERA.4 The document stated that although new and old EU member states were equal partners, the older ones were not sufficiently aware of the opportunities for cross-border collaboration. It was also mentioned that there was less governmental attention in the CEE paid to the fields of research and development (R&D), and less public resources and fewer qualified staff were held up as crucial risk factors against European-wide collaboration. It is true that the EU has made many efforts to bring about cohesion and

bridge diverse science policies, putting, for example, more emphasis on regional aspects in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), but these steps did not adequately change the situation in the social sciences. The European Parliament organised a conference on social sciences and

humanities in December 2005.5 Although the Commissioner, Janez Potocˇnik, emphasised there the increasing importance of social sciences and collaboration in this field, the conference concluded that despite development, social science research in the new member states was at a financing disadvantage and the EU’s support and incentive system had been unable to improve the situation. The United States, by comparison, seemed to have a more efficient support system, owing to which significant brain drain was expected from Europe towards the United States.