Czech-French Science Meetup

On Thursday, 25 April 2024, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Paris kindly hosted a meetup of Czech scientists working and living in France. The aim of the event was to get to meet and connect the local Czech scientific community, and to lay the foundation for future meetups in France.

On Thursday 25 April, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Paris hosted the Czech-French Science Meetup, a meeting of Czech scientists working in France. It was the first edition of such a meeting in France, and followed the concept of similar meetings in Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The main aim of the event was to connect the Czech scientific community in France, to network, and ideally to lay the foundations for similar such events in the future. The event was attended by over 50 scientists and students  based in France, and also attracted participants from neighboring countries. Due to its international character the official language of the meeting was English.

The event was opened by Radka Bordes, Deputy Ambassador of the Czech Republic in France. In her opening speech, given both in Czech and French, she mentioned that scientific diplomacy is one of the priorities of the current Czech international politics and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic appreciates the collaboration with Czexpats in Science on such events.

Her speech was followed by an introduction of Czexpats in Science by its director  Matouš Glanc. In a nutshell, Czexpats in Science bring together Czech scientists working abroad and connect them with the scientific community in the Czech Republic. Matouš Glanc invited the participants to register to the Map of Scientists and invited them to attend upcoming events organized by Czexpats in Science, particularly the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence. “Our organization is here to support Czech scientists abroad, and at the same time to offer them the opportunity to influence the scientific environment in the Czech Republic. If you have any questions, wishes or suggestions for what we should be doing, please do not hesitate to contact us!”

After the introductory talks, Professor Martin Vohralík from the INRIA research institute in Paris delivered his keynote lecture titled Survey your situation and act adaptively about his research in numerical methods and applied mathematics. Using an analogy with the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, and the example of the Charles de Gaulle Airport terminal collapse in 2004, he illustrated the importance of taking into account the error of computer simulations. In his talk, he also compared the academic systems in France and the Czech Republic, and suggested that it can be quite difficult for a Czech scientist working abroad to actively collaborate with institutions in the Czech Republic. “In France, there is a well-established link between academic institutions, the private sector and the public administration – this is something I find lacking in the Czech Republic, and I think we should take inspiration from France in this regard.”

Next on the program was a panel discussion focused on Czech-French scientific collaboration. The panel was attended by Veronique Debord-Lazaro, Attaché for Science and Higher Education at the French Institute in Prague, Mateusz Chmurski, Director of the French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences (Centre français de recherche en sciences sociales, CEFRES), Vladimír Majer, former scientific diplomat at the National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS), and Ladislav Krištoufek, Vice-Rector for Research at Charles University. After introducing themselves and their institutions, the panelists discussed various aspects of Czech-French scientific collaboration. Veronique Debord-Lazaro described the various programs of the French Institute in Prague, which support Czech students who want to study in France. “We invest heavily in programs for early career researchers (master level students and above), because they will be the future ambassadors of French-Czech scientific cooperation,” explained Veronique Debord-Lazaro. In this context, she also mentioned the new program for French students interested in studying and doing research in the Czech Republic. “We are overwhelmed with data, but key information often does not reach its intended audience,” was Mateusz Chmurski’s take on the major challenge of today, relevant also in fields other than international scientific cooperation. Vladimír Majer described the development of Czech-French scientific collaboration from the time of the Velvet Revolution until the early years of  the Czech Republic’s membership in the European Union, and emphasized the important contribution of bottom-up scientific networks towards the development of international cooperation. “I am convinced that a combination of top-down support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and bottom-up activities such as those organized by Czexpats in Science offers great potential for the development of bilateral relations.” Ladislav Krištoufek concluded the discussion by emphasizing the fact that Czech universities are interested in creating welcoming conditions for the return of Czech scientists to the Czech Republic. “Charles University is going through a period of change, and one of the goals of the current management is to attract talents from abroad – not only Czech scientists, but experts regardless of their nationality.”

The last part of the program was dedicated to flash talks – short lectures in which the participants presented their research in a concise and engaging manner. The topics ranged from research on Parkinson’s disease and the use of radar to detect falls by the elderly, to the study of the mammary gland and the presence of microplastics in deep-sea fish, and to misinformation and the origins of cinema in the Far East. The brief closing remarks were followed by an informal networking event, where participants could get to know each other and each other’s research over something little to eat and drink.

We would like to thank the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Paris for hosting the meetup in the beautiful premises of the Czech Embassy. A big thank you also goes to the panelists who traveled from Prague to join the panel discussion. Last but not least, we thank all the participants who contributed to the pleasant atmosphere of the event, especially those who arrived from distant parts of France. We hope that the event will provide a foundation for further meetups and joint activities of the Czech scientific community in France.

On behalf of the organizers of the Czech-French Science Meetup

Vladimír Sobota & Veronika Smutná