The tiny nation of Kosovo has a new science law, which mandates the government to invest 0.7% of its budget in research.
This is great news for the nation of less than two million which has been through a bloody break-up with its bigger neighbour Serbia.
A previous law that regulated science funding, from 2004, said that government should devote “up to 0.7%” of its budget to science. But critics say that this ambiguous wording allowed it to often invest less money, if any.
It was unclear whether the law was going to keep the new wording which would commit the government to an exact percentage – the proposed law was pulled from parliamentary proceedings in February because of financial implications that were unplanned for in the budget. But it was later reintroduced and approved at a session on 28 March and decreed as law by the president on 18 April.
“If they observe the law, this should represent huge progress,” says Dukagjin Pupovci, executive director of the Kosova Education Center, and former secretary of the National Research Council. “But, I have my doubts…we live in the Balkans.”
Interestingly the lawmakers seem unambitious when it comes to other issues.
For example, once scientists have their PhDs, their career progression takes them from the job of ‘scientific associate’, via ‘senior scientific associate’ until they finally reach the status of ‘scientific advisor’ – a permanent role (the progression is equivalent to the educational roles of ‘assistant professor’, ‘associate professor’, and ‘full professor’).
All one needs to do to progress from the first stage to the full-time, permanent role is publish five articles in international journals and take part in organising a scientific activity, such as a conference.
Similar career patterns have wreaked havoc in Croatia’s science, creating a system full of permanent professors who don’t need to do much to keep their jobs, staying put at the expense of productivity, excellence, and early career researchers for whom there are few jobs. If Kosovo is aiming for scientific excellence, it would do well look to the experiences of its neighbours and learn from them what not to do.