Excellent science needs trust and good interpersonal relationships

Prague, 13 June 2024 – On Wednesday 12 June, 80 prominent figures from the Czech and European scientific community gathered at the conference “Through academic culture to scientific excellence” organised by Czexpats in Science. The keynote speakers, led by Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council (ERC), highlighted the crucial importance of healthy interpersonal relationships, trust, equal opportunities and research integrity in achieving scientific excellence. 

Presentation by Maria Leptin at the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence

The main objective of the conference was to open a discussion on the conditions that top scientists need to achieve real breakthroughs. Conference participants discussed ways to motivate institutions to improve conditions in Czech science and highlighted the role of individuals in creating a healthy academic environment. Among others, Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council (ERC), gave a presentation. The opening remarks were given by Pavel Doleček, Deputy Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, and Milena Králíčková, President of the Czech Rectors’ Conference and Rector of Charles University.

“It is impossible to do excellent science without discussing academic culture,” stated P. Doleček. M. Králíčková followed in a similar spirit, arguing that Czech science is hampered by a number of prejudices and a lack of diversity. She also recalled the role of international mobility and the need to increase the attractiveness of Czech institutions for foreign scientists.

In her first public appearance in the Czech Republic as ERC President, M. Leptin presented the values on which the ERC is based and explained how the ERC has been successful in selecting scientists capable of making breakthroughs over the long term. According to Leptin, science and research entail considerable risk, but it is worth it for society in the long run. “What scientists need above all is trust and freedom without unnecessary administrative burdens,” Leptin added, while stressing that strengthening the international character of research institutions is a safe bet if we want to increase the success rate of applicants to ERC programmes, according to an internal ERC analysis.

During additional keynote lectures, British Professor of Art History Matthew Rampley from Masaryk University and molecular biologist Kateřina Rohlenová from the Czech Academy of Sciences also expressed their views on the importance of academic culture, highlighting, among others, the pivotal role of competent leadership and administration of research institutions in implementing positive change.

The conference was held with the support of the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as the final event of a three-year project by Michal H. Kolář (UCT Prague) and the Czexpats in Science to promote academic culture. “The working environment and the overall atmosphere can be decisive, for example, when a scientific institution wants to attract top scientists from abroad and be competitive on a global scale,” says Kolář, describing the importance of academic culture. “We are convinced that we need to look for ways to improve the scientific environment at all levels, from individuals to institutions to systemic changes in the evaluation and funding of science in the Czech Republic.”

Matouš Glanc, Director of theo Czexpats in Science, concluded: “We are delighted that the conference was so well received. We see it as a clear signal that scientists, as well as representatives of institutions and science policy, consider academic culture an important topic. A number of specific suggestions were made on how to improve the culture in Czech science to make it more open, world-class and ambitious. We are looking forward to their implementation and are ready to play our part by sharing experiences from abroad.”

Czexpats in Science, z. s.

The Czexpats in Science initiative brings together a community of more than a thousand Czech scientists who work or have worked abroad. The organization’s mission is to connect Czech scientists with past, present and future international experience and together inspire and positively influence the Czech scientific environment to make Czech science as open, global and ambitious as possible. The association fulfils this mission by organising social events in the Czech Republic and abroad, by the project of the unique interactive Map of Scientists, by educational activities, by raising the profile of the achievements of Czech scientists abroad and by advocating for systemic changes in Czech science policy. More at www.czexpats.org 

Contact: Matouš Glanc, director, matous.glanc@czexpats.org, +420777086826

Photographs: Jan Havlík

Attendees of the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence. Left to right: Alice Valkárová, Pavel Doleček, Michal Kolář, Maria Leptin, Vladimíra Petráková, Matouš Glanc
Maria Leptin and Milena Králířková at the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence
Presentation by Kateřina Rohlenová at the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence
Presentation by Matthew Rampley at the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence
Audience at the conference Through academic culture to scientific excellence, first row from the right Pavel Doleček and Michal Kolář