An international team of experts examined the excellence of the Slovak Academy of Sciences
During the past year, the Slovak Academy of Sciences carried out the second comprehensive evaluation of its institutes by an independent international panel of experts. The evaluators focused on three parameters: the quality and productivity of SAS institutes, their social importance and development potential. The panel headed by Prof. Marja Makarow from Finland positively evaluated the shift in the quality and scope of research carried out at SAS, the internationalization of the institution, but also the creation of a school for young doctoral scientists. However, she also points to the still insufficient financial support for science and research in Slovakia.
Accreditation of the SAS institutes took place in several phases. Panels of evaluators for individual scientific sections first studied the accreditation questionnaires with annexes provided by the institutes. Subsequently, in the autumn of 2022, they gradually visited all SAS institutes to familiarize themselves with the activities of the organizations, working conditions and scientific results and held discussions with academic communities. The experts paid special attention to doctoral students, young researchers and the problem of transferring knowledge and innovations into practice. SAS institutes and centres were evaluated with final grades of A, A/B, B, B/C, C and C/D. Not a single institute received the lowest D rating.
"From our point of view, the accreditation turned out great because it was confirmed that at least one of the institutes is a leader in the European research space, and we have six other institutes which are on the border of this peak. This is a radical expansion of quality compared to the previous evaluation," emphasizes the President of the SAS, prof. Pavol Šajgalík, who attributes this success to the responsible application of several recommendations of the previous evaluation from 2016. One of them was to establish international advisory committees at institutes.
"International advisory committees are immensely beneficial for institutes to be shaped by current trends. For the past 6 years, we have consistently worked with them at the level of the presidency and the level of institutes. The result is clearly visible where these committees work" added the SAS President.
In addition, SAS has significantly internationalized over the past 6 years. The number of foreign workers coming from world-class workplaces and the number of doctoral students from abroad increased, and the integration of institutes into larger centres continued.
"We also created a school for doctoral students to train their so-called soft skills, where they learn to write projects, file patents or create spinoff companies. We have also created support structures such as the Technology Transfer Office and the EU Project Support Office," added prof. Peter Samuely, Chairman of the SAS accreditation commission and Vice-President for science, research and innovations.
"SAS has improved its activities in most areas. I also want to highlight the strategy development, the Academy has now a better connection with universities," prof. Marja Makarow, Chair of the Meta-Panel of experts compared the results of the second evaluation with the previous accreditation. "The Academy, as well as its institutes, have established international advisory committees that help them, and activities in the area of doctoral studies or knowledge in the field of technology transfer also improved. The SAS´ position, or rather ´visibility´, is better, too," summed up M. Makarow.
SAS has been ensuring the regular evaluation of the institutes´ quality since 1993. The first independent evaluation exclusively by foreign experts was carried out in 2016, the next was carried out six years later, in 2022. The current accreditation results will also be reflected in the financing of SAS organizations.