Two countrywide databases of research teams and scientists are currently being compiled in the Czech Republic. According to information obtained by Czech Position, the US government has ordered one of these databases, from the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT), while the other database (“Who is Who in Czech Research”) is being prepared by the Czech government agency CzechInvest.
Already year and a half ago, the Pentagon commissioned a list of Czech scientists who excel in their field of research. “At the request of the American side we are currently, in cooperation with the Czech Ministry of Education, working on a comprehensive update of the list and on a summarization of the applied methodology for its utilization in other European countries,” Vladimír Mařík, head of the ČVUT’s department of cybernetics and coordinator for the selection of eminent scientific research teams, told Czech Position.
“In the previous selection, we picked around 120 scientific research teams for the Americans. How many teams will feature in this next stage is something we obviously don’t know yet. But it’s clear that [the list] will be far more extensive. This time, we are taking a cross-section approach across various scientific fields although we have yet to agree on a completion deadline,” Mařík said. “The methodology applied in compiling the list for US government institutions proved very effective.”
In compiling the previous selection, ČVUT’s focus was on defense research, including laser technologies, and general IT research; this time around, a wider spectrum of scientific fields is targeted. ‘Methodology applied in compiling the list for US government institutions proved very effective.’
Last summer CzechInvest, a Czech government agency promoting business and investment, started working on profile descriptions regarding scientific research. Currently around 70 profile descriptions have been completed of both scientific research institutions and innovative companies.
“The purpose is to draw attention to the technological advancement of Czech industry and research institutions and also to pinpoint above-average expertise in a given scientific field,” said Štěpánka Filipová, director of communications at CzechInvest.
“Currently roughly six dozen of these profiles had been [selected] from the approximately 500 entities we have approached. We haven't set a final limit for the number of profiles – it’s a freely expanding portfolio,” she said. The data obtained will be made available by Czech embassies across the world.
Website offering the very best
There have been efforts to launch an online database. “An electronic database of interesting scientific research teams would be very desirable and there have already been several attempts at compiling one — for example the Spoluprace.org website. However, it so far failed to meet the financial requirements to set up such a system,” Filipová said.
Common sense dictates that the Czech Republic long ago should have had a functional website promoting the very best science the country has to offer; perhaps it’s a question of agreeing on what the best science is. What is unsurprising, however, is that in the 70 profile descriptions from 10 different sectors made available to Czech Position, the same faintly familiar names of companies and scientific institutions that always crop up appear: Elmarco, Evektor, Apronex, Škoda Research, Tescan, NanoTrade, UNIS, Apigenex, Avast, MemBrain, AscoprotBiotech, Certicon and Crytur.
“We have for example made use of our profile description in Paris during the presentation of the ELI superlaser project. I fully endorse CzechInvest’s initiative,” said Jindřich Houžvička, director of Crytur in Turnov.
The situation among academic research teams is not very different. Those interested in the “promotional cards” were Czech scientific evergreens:
- Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry AS CR,
- Selected laboratories of the Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague (VŠCHT),
- Scientists in the field of cybernetics at the Czech Technical University in Prague (ČVUT) working for the US Navy (professors Michal Pěchouček and Václav Hlaváč),
- Scientists in the field of cybernetics at the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň (professor Josef Psutka),
- The team involved in speech recognition at the Technical University of Liberec (professor Jan Nouza),
- The aviation engineers of the Brno University of Technology (professor Antonín Píštěk),
- Other academics like, for example, from selected faculties of the Technical University of Ostrava.
We never know where we'll meet
“Thanks to CzechInvest we have already been approached by a US company with which we're very likely to enter into cooperation,” Eva Syková, director of the Academy of Science’s Institute for Experimental Medicine, told Czech Position. She is considered a progressive lady in the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Others agree that database offers opportunities. “Look if you hadn’t been married yet you wouldn’t know where you'd meet your future wife. … So going abroad offering interesting research can only be a good thing,” said Karel Rais, dean of the Brno University of Technology. ‘The scientists we addressed told us they are worried someone could steal their know-how.’
Not everyone is ready to participate in the project: Charles University is conspicuous in its absence, as its departments tend not to do much marketing or engage in PR activities. “The scientists we addressed told us they are worried someone could steal their know-how,” a well-informed source said. This void is bound to be filled by teams from Masaryk University or the University of Technology in Brno. CzechInvest itself would very much applaud even greater involvement of innovative companies and scientific institutions.
“Personally, I value very positively CzechInvest’s endeavor to compile a list of high-quality research teams. If we want to offer the world the very best we have in the field of science and development we need to ʻcatalogʼ and possibly also evaluate these teams and make the resulting list useful and easily accessible,” said ČVUT’s Mařík, holder of the Czech Head/Invention 2010 award and chairman of the Research Board of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.
The list is also intended to be of exploratory value for state institutions at the helm of Czech science like the Czech government's Research and Development Council and the Ministry of Education. Here and there both lists concur — and that is where one, supposedly, should look for the most sparkly crystal jewels.