Editorial – Europe and its next-generation scientists

By . Published on 25 July 2014 in:
Editorial, July 2014, , , ,

Looking around, it is easy to see how many learned societies and nations are trying to do something to promote the next generation of scientists. In the era of digitisation and social networks most of these initiatives are aimed to give to young researchers the opportunity to create their own network of connections.

If we look at the past, the big differences between a scientist of the current generation and one of the eighties can be synthesised in a few points: the digitisation of scientific discoveries in electronic journals and their diffusion through the Internet allow us to read and publish articles in shorter time. Moreover, the possibility of interaction through the Internet has allowed people to establish interconnections spending less money and time setting up a network that until a few years ago it would have been costly and complicated to establish. All these changes have expanded the possibilities of interaction, cultural exchange and therefore personal growth. The mobility of young researchers is now widespread throughout the world, turning researchers and research making real globetrotters out of them. Although this is a success for the scientific community, we start to see the problems associated with these changes, such as the absence of a European level social legislation that protects the scientific researchers. Another problem, which several nations are now dealing with, is to ensure that the flow of young researchers is not only outgoing, but also incoming into the country to maintain a strong science base in the country.

Baku World Forum of Young Scientists' participants
Baku World Forum of Young Scientists’ participants

In this scenario the COST Targeted Network TN1301, named Sci-GENERATION, is one of the most interesting initiatives. Established in November 2013, it aims at consolidating contemporary ideas regarding scientific research and thereby disseminating a new spirit of research and innovation in Europe. The network wants to set up bottom-up and pan-European platform for outstanding young European researchers, including ERC Starting Grantees and other talented individuals from less research-intensive countries, in order to share and transmit their visions on emergent research paths and research policy as well as their experiences and ideas. Young researchers’ solid experience and competent input is extremely valuable for European science policy makers in terms of defining a robust, long-term vision for European science policy – one of the pillars of future European economic success in an increasingly competitive global market. In this way, Sci-GENERATION aims to enhance career perspectives for young researchers in public research centres and universities, to promote new and emergent research topics as well as research methods and organisation, and to improve synergy avoiding duplicated efforts between organisations, universities and other European platforms.

As mentioned before, many less research-intensive countries are now addressing the problem of being scientifically attractive and being considered in the scientific mobility framework. The Baku World Forum of Young Scientists, held in Azerbaijan from 26-31 May 2014, was a striking initiative presenting a country to the scientific community that wants to play a role in the global arena. The Republic of Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991, after 70 years under the Soviet Union. The nation is now trying to build its own relationships network, sharing with the world the recent years progress, which made the largest country in the Caucasus a cultural key point between Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

Baku World Forum of Young Scientists is not only an international platform for the young scientists, but also an instrument to attract more young people to research and investigations in both Azerbaijan and the world. At its 2nd edition, this year the Forum collected more than 300 participants from about 97 countries. The forum was organized by the Youth and Sports Ministry, the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, the Azerbaijan National Commission for UNESCO, the Council of Europe’s young researchers Eurodoc, and Azerbaijan’s society of young scientists, post-graduate students, and Master students.

Both of the mentioned initiatives aim to give young scientists a voice and to recognise their importance for the growth of a country or even a continent. Only history will show us if these are the right and best choices. In the meantime what we can recognise is that a society, that takes advantage of the skills, experience and understanding of one generation to promote the next one, is ensuring itself the passing of knowledge.

Antigone Marino, Chair of the EPS Young Minds Committee

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