This is particularly challenging in the social sciences, which are more firmly rooted in national cultural traditions, with none of the history of international collaboration common to sciences such as physics and medical research.
The ESF says progress is being made through the Member Organisations in Central and Eastern Europe forum, set up in 2006 to help the ten participate in Europe wide research and obtain fair access to funds from EU programmes such as Framework Programme 7. Berry Bonenkamp, project officer of the Forum, insists it is not a case of needing to catch up in scientific terms, but of getting the same access as counterparts in western Europe.
Invisible to the west
Social sciences research in the central and eastern European countries lacks visibility in the west, and has failed so far to attract a fair share of funding. To address this, the forum is to study the needs of the ten, and promote dialogue between them and the other EU countries in the social sciences.
The ESF is also helping to improve visibility by drawing on experience from countries such as Portugal that were in similar positions earlier in European history. “The long period of conservative dictatorship, from 1926 to 1974, affected the scientific arena in Portugal and particularly the social sciences, and can be compared with central and eastern European countries under Soviet rule,” says Bonenkamp.
One lesson of the Portuguese experience is that social scientists emerging from a country where cultural debate has been suppressed, first of all need to be encouraged to engage in international dialogue. There is a tendency, especially in the early days, for social scientists to be introspective and to focus on local problems, rather looking outwards.
The 10 CEE countries are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.