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AAAS Helps Bolster Science Policy
in Post-Socialist Europe
Fifteen years ago, would you have thought you could talk on a portable telephone while buying groceries, or walking down the street? Science and technology have transformed our lives in recent years. Nowhere has change come faster, however, than in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, since the fall of Communism.
Bulgarian scholar Rossitsa Chobanova
Credit: Al Teich
Now in the midst of making the difficult transition to free market economies, these countries have generally neglected science-related research and development, according to Al Teich, Director of Science and Policy Programs at AAAS, and Co-Director of the Center for Innovation Policy Research and Education for Central and Eastern Europe (CIPRE). Dedicated to strengthening science and technology policy in Central and Eastern Europe, CIPRE has brought Bulgarian scholar Rossitsa Chobanova to AAAS for the summer, where she is studying how non-governmental organizations, or "NGOs," can play a role in making such policies and putting them into practice.
Chobanova is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Economics, at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
"In the 21st century, innovation has become the major engine for economic and social development in the region," Chobanova said. "I'm happy to have a chance to spend some time with AAAS, the largest NGO of scientists in the world, to learn how it participates in making policy and working with other institutions in the U.S. and abroad."
Located in Budapest and supported mainly by grants from NATO and UNESCO, CIPRE's mission includes facilitating information sharing between researchers and policy makers from the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, and among science and technology experts from this region and other industrial nations. It also aims to help disseminate the latest ideas about science and technology policy throughout the nations o Central and Eastern Europe and to help researchers in the region offer high quality training programs at various educational levels.
"We're interested in priority-setting in R&D, in ethics in scientific research, and the role of technological advice in policy making; particularly regarding the environment," Teich said. "We're also looking at the importance of science and technology for economic growth, and building competitive industries."
Last January, the organization began offering a series of intensive training courses for science and technology policy practitioners, which was held in Budapest. The next course will take place in November. The organization also offers mentors for senior policymakers, and internships at AAAS, CIPRE, and the Innovation Research Center of Budapest University of Economics and Public Administration in Hungary, which is headed by CIPRE Co-Director, Annamaria Inzelt.
"The seminars bring together young and mid-career people from governmental organizations, foundations, and from the research community. This mix of professionals brings different points of view to the discussions," said Inzelt. "The participants come from many Central and Eastern European countries that are in different stage of transitions. The experiences of forerunner transition economies are very useful for others."
Teich and Inzelt founded CIPRE after talking during a NATO meeting in Moscow, in 1997.
He and Inzelt agreed that science and technology policy had fallen by the wayside during the ongoing democratic reforms.
"We began talking in general terms about setting up an institute that would serve as a focus for bringing people together," Teich said. "Later, she called my bluff, and sent me an email asking if I wanted to follow up. We got a small grant from NATO to bring her over here for a month, and put together the plan out of which CIPRE has evolved."
31 July 2002
For more information, read, "Implementing CIPRE."