News: News Archives
Training for S&T Policymakers
in Central and Eastern Europe
To compete with U.S. and European scientists in the fast-moving world of biotechnology, some Hungarian researchers regularly work through the night, says Annamaria Inzelt, director of the Innovation Research Center at the Budapest University of Economic Sciences.
"Some don't sleep all night trying to catch up, because the speed of their equipment is five times less than the speed of equipment in Western Europe," Inzelt says.
The solution is to devote more resources to science, she says, and she hopes that AAAS will help her to play a role in making that happen.
"We have a lot of bright scientists," Inzelt says, "but we have not had the science and technology policy we needin Hungary nor in most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe."
Since 1997, when they first came up with the idea, Inzelt has been working with Al Teich, director of the AAAS Directorate for Science Policy Programs, on an initiative known as CIPRE, the Center for Innovation Policy Research and Education. The mission of CIPRE is to develop a cadre of science and technology policymakers in the nations made independent after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Three years after its formal launch, CIPRE has held a planning seminar and three workshopsa fourth is planned for April 2003and has trained young and mid-career science and technology policymakers, and created a network of individuals who are serving as mentors to younger people interested in S&T policy.
"The concept of developing relationships between senior-level mentors and younger leaders in S&T policy seems to be working well and clearly has much potential," Teich says. "Networking relationships are being developed among S&T policy officials in various CEE countries who previously had little occasion to be in contact with one another."
But he notes that CIPRE is at a transition point. "It has managed to establish itself with a series of modest project grants (from NATO and from UNESCO) on the basis of which it has begun building a constituency and a reputation. To reach the next stage of development will require institutional support that will allow it to develop an independent research capability, a full-time permanent staff, and a set of projects and programs that go beyond its periodic seminars."
Science Loses Support in Post-Socialist Era
Teich notes that the nations of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have a long history of producing highly qualified scientists and engineers, but he says that the governments of these nations have devoted little attention to the problem of restructuring science and innovation policy in the post-socialist era.
"The R&D statistics of the CEE countries during the past 10-12 years are depressingly familiar and reflect these problems," Teich says. "As these countries have abandoned their systems of central planning...their public sector R&D expenditures have plummeted, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of gross domestic product."
In the 1980s, gross domestic expenditure on R&D in Central and Eastern European nations averaged around 2.0 to 2.5 of gross domestic product. In the decades that followed, the percentage fell to between 0.4 and 0.7. Teich notes that there may now be cause for optimism, however.
"Some stabilization appears to have occurred," Teich says, "perhaps indicating an end to the drastic reductions in R&D during the transition period."
Role for CIPRE in Support of S&T
Inzelt says that CIPRE can play an important role in helping policymakers in Central and Eastern European nations prepare to take part in the broader European scientific enterprise.
"In our workshops," Inzelt says, "we are discussing different experiences in Europe and the United States, and our participants evaluate those experiences and learn something they can use in their own countries."
She notes that the November 2002 workshop was geared toward officials in science and technology policy. But many of the participants were young researchers, who provide their governments with guidance on S&T policy because there is no one else to do the job.
"They are deeply involved in advisory work because there are limited numbers of people trained in science and technology policy," Inzelt says. "They often have to write policy papers themselves."
24 December 2002