News archive - S&T Country Reports Reviewed

Dr. Ivan Tchalakov from the Technology Studies Group, Institute of Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has reviewed the S&T country reports drafted by the Information Office. You can read his critique here.
The reports are currently being updated. If you are interested to support us as reviewer for specific parts, we would be very happy to receive your comments.

Notes on S & T Country Reports Western Balkans

The strong points:
1) Exceptionally important documents! They draw clear picture of the current state of S&T sector (NIS) in Western Balkan countries. The development of the reports under the common pattern allows comparison between the countries, as well as with other SEE countries.
2) The reports focus at the description of S&T institutions, activities and output at macro level. It presents each country’s international relationships in the field of S&T, especially their integration in European research area. The main funding schemes both at national and international level are outlined.
3) I appreciate the presence of ‘R&D infrastructure’ sections, as well as use of patent and publication data for measuring the R&D output, which together with the human resources data provide very clear up picture of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each country.
4) Similarly, I found as especially strong point in the reports the presence of large sections of National R&D strategies and S&T policy systems, thus providing detailed enough picture and the policy efforts at national level, hence pointing to the relevant partners of international institutions.

The points of possible critique:
5) The main critical notes is related with the fact that reports keep micro-level of analysis, rarely attempting to focus at lower levels, which are very important during the transitory periods. We should be aware that often policy documents at national level are more or less ‘wishful documents’, often targeting international bodies and having little practical effects inside the courtiers.
6) At policy level my experience has shown that in most SEE countries last 15 years have been marked with weakening of the central level of governance, and this is particularly important in S&T field. The lower levels – universities, Academies of Sciences, large research organisations and even single research units have had a large degree of autonomy to maintain their specific policies and profile of research activities. This is strengthened by their direct access to EU, US and other international research and innovation grant schemes, as well as the increasing possibilities for direct collaboration via Internet and other channel, bypassing national level.
7) From follow that more presence in the reports of detailed enough information about particular achievements and potential in specific R&D areas will be much appreciated. The braking down the data to major scientific areas (such as math and natural sciences, technical sciences, biotech, etc.) is important, but not enough for a targeted policy in the field - these areas are too large. This is partly compensated by the institutional outlines, patent and publication data. However, the later are also in too large categories. 1)
My suggestion is that inclusion in the reports of a number of boxes (or under some other form such as Appendixes), presenting the concrete profile of top research units, groups and people will add an important dimension. Often such top scientific institutions are better known at the international arena rather than inside the country (or at least in very limited national expert circles), due to these units’ strategy or result of conscious neglect at national level because of power battle between different cliques. 2)
8) With this is related my desire to see more attention to the local differences of S&T landscape. It is true that these are small countries and not too much decentralised, but as you probably know from the Austrian experience, the regional level matters. For example I know about some important developments at Croatian town of Osijek in the field of high-tech parks, entrepreneurship and innovation. The picture there is quite different from those in the capital Zagreb, or in the coastal city of Split – in contrast, in the later the creative industries’ sector is developing.
My critical notes do not underestimate the enormous work done in preparing these reports and their overall importance both at regional and EU levels, as well at larger international level of analysis and policy. These notes also may be irrelevant, due to the initial limitations of the project. But the problems remain – the observation made by Laredo and Mustar in 2003 that in most EU countries about 25% of the S&T policy is influenced directly by Brussels, and another 25% by regions is even more relevant today.
So in R&D policy local and regional levels matter – and maybe it is worth for the next SEE S&T reports .

Thank you for the pleasure to read these remarkable reports. Best regards,
Dr. Ivan Tchalakov
Technology Studies Group, Institute of Sociology, BAS

The Information Office would like to thank Dr. Tchalakov for his review and the suggestions for improvement of the reports! We will try to follow as much as possible and improve our work!


1) It is important to know, for example, that in Serbia “38 % of all patents granted at the EPO were in the field of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, followed by mechanical engineering as the second most important field with 18 %”, but I know that under these figure one could identify at least several strong enough research groups, each working in similar or different areas.
2) In a recent study of mine I have found and unique university research lab at Bulgarian provincial city at the Black Sea, working in the field of mathematical chemistry. During the last fifteen years the lab have been collaborating with top research and government agencies in Europe and North America, consulting organisations such as US Environmental Agency, OESD, Danish Environmental Agency and others, and earning contracts worth of tens of millions of USD. They contribute to their local university, but up until recently they did not want to be too visible at national level, said the director of the lab – “we could hardly expect something from national institutions”.

Entry created by Elke Dall on August 25, 2007
Modified on August 27, 2007