High salaries alone are not enough to make Czech scientists come back from abroad; academic considerations including the quality of research facilities and social factors such as the availability of nursery schools are also important.
The chance to attract Czech scientists successfully working abroad has slightly increased. The Czech government approved the Návrat (Return) program, with Kč 465 million in financial support allocated from 2012 to ’19. “The program aims to create the conditions for integration or reintegration of foreign experts into the Czech milieu, meaning to create the conditions for the return of Czech scientists working abroad, as well as recruiting foreigners for work on projects in the Czech Republic. These projects will be selected in public tenders invited by the Ministry of Education,” Jan Koucký, deputy minister for research and university education, told Czech Position. The Return program’s preparations started under the previous minister of education, Miroslava Kopicová.
The aim is to establish new scientific contacts and expand international cooperation in research and development (R&D). In the ideal case, research microteams focusing on promising branches will be set up. “We expect that on the basis of resolving the best projects, between 2012 and 2019 some 30 new research teams will originate. These teams will help to improve the quality of research and pass on their experience to younger researchers,” Koucký said. However, according to the scientists contacted by Czech Position, the financial stimuli are not the most important aspect. They also require state-of-the-art facilities, renowned workplaces, as well as high-quality workplace food and nursery schools for their children.
A move in the right direction
University presidents welcome the program. “We would certainly make use of it, yet it’s not the be all and end all. I have to compliment the strategy pursued by the South Moravia region, which has already begun implementing a similar program called SoMoPro,” said Karel Rais, president of the Brno University of Technology (VUT) in South Moravia. According to VUT’s finance officer, the university has already prepared six accommodation units for the scientists expected to arrive. ‘Czech research cannot do without people possessing experience from abroad’
The Return program has also been welcomed by Ivo Vondrák, the president of the VŠB-Technical University of Ostrava. “It’s a step in the right direction. Czech research cannot do without people possessing experience from abroad. We’ll certainly be striving to obtain the money,” Vondrák told Czech Position. But, as he pointed out, if international research teams are to be established in the Czech Republic, it is necessary to remove bureaucratic obstacles, a case in point being immigration policy.
“The program was approved by the government on Dec. 7. Projects will be selected in a public tender, which is scheduled to be invited approximately in the middle of the next year. The launch of the first projects is expected in 2012, with other projects ensuing over the next few years,” said Miloslav Frýzek from the department of research and development programs of the Ministry of Education. All the costs will be covered from the state budget (special-purpose support). Long-term financing is secure. “In its decree the government approved expenditure from the budget until 2019,” Frýzek said.
According to Eva Janů, manager of the SoMoPro program, the long-term certainty and conception is one of the main advantages the Return program has to offer. “It’s definitely a great thing. This may result in the establishment of some strong research teams. Yet, based on our experience, I would recommend that the conditions for scientists be as flexible as possible. Often, it’s not possible to include research plans in specific budgets,” Janů told Czech Position. Well, within a few years we will see whether the half-a-billion magnet for Czech brains has worked.
Schedule of expenditures for Return program
2013 / Kč 60 million
2014 / Kč 70 million
2015 / Kč 75 million
2016 / Kč 70 million
2017 / Kč 60 million
2018 / Kč 50 million
2019 / Kč 40 million
Total: Kč 465 million
Source: Ministry of Education