The conference “WeBInUnion: Bringing Western Balkans closer to the Innovation Union” took place on 18.9.2014, at Queen’s ASTORIA Design Hotel (Victoria Hall), Milovana Milovanovića 1, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia. It aimed at providing the discussion forum, to define key elements of the political agenda of the Western Balkans region, regarding the three pillars for human resource development in research and science:...

  • strategy for human resources development,
  • overcoming the remaining challenges of researchers’ mobility, and
  • cooperation with scientific diaspora.

More than 50 people attended the conference. The number and structure of the participants reflected the intention of the organizers to set up a focused forum where the decision makers and management representatives of the Serbian R&D landscape meet with policy makers from the region. Besides the partners of the WeBInUnion project and researchers, the event was attended by a significant number of representatives of the management of Serbian R&D institutions. Two of five Serbian universities were represented at the highest level (rector and vice-rector), four vice-deans were present on behalf of the faculties from the universities of Novi Sad and Kragujevac, three high level management officials from private universities and/or faculties, five directors or assistant directors of the research institutes. The Ministry of education, science and technological development was represented with two senior advisors, in addition to the attendance of the state secretary. 

The conference was opened by dr Aleksandar Belić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.

After the opening, the floor was given to Mr. Dimitrios Sanopoulos, CERTH, Greece, who presented the main results of the WeBInUnion project, while putting the focus on each of the three dimensions, addressed within the project:  researchers’ mobility in the region and the remaining challenges;  the European Charter and Code in the region - Before and after WebInUnion project; and collaboration with scientific diaspora in the region. Mr. Sanopoulos emphasized that one of the most critical successes of the project was significantly improved rate of adoption of C&C principles and implementation of HRS4R strategies. This was result of more than 50 informative meetings that were organized for the promotion of C&C in scope of WeBInUnion project, producing endorsement of 24 organizations in the region and awards for the succesful HRS4R process by the EC for 9 institutions, as well as an increase in number of submitted job vacancies to EURAXESS portal from the region.

A round table discussion followed on the three pillars pertaining to the development of human resources in research and science. The round table was moderated by Mrs. Victoria Bodnarova, EURAXESS Links North America, with the participation of dr Aleksandar Belić from Serbia, Mr. Dimitrios Sanopoulos from Greece, Mr. Mario Milanović from Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Mr. Robert Dumi, director in Multilateral Directorate for supporting European Projects, Albania. The round table participants highlighted nepotism and lack of formal visa procedures tailored to researchers as some of the main obstacles to mobility. 

With regard to the standards in human resources development, several conclusions have been made. High salaries are not considered as the main incentive for researchers. In fact, the R&D systems in the region must invest in the research infrastructure to attract and keep the best minds. These investments will also have positive impact on attracting researchers from abroad, as well as from diaspora. Sole endorsement of the Charter and Code principles is not sufficient to make a qualitative progress towards higher standards for HR development in research. Actually, the endorsements must be followed by the concrete and dedicated actions that will produce visible effects. However, the R&D institutions must be motivated to join this process. This motivation can be carried out in a trivial way, by forcing them to endorse the principles and carry out the HRS4R process or substantial – by promoting its benefits both for researchers and organizations. Mrs. Ana Grdović, from AMEUP, Croatia shortly presented the Croatian case. It is considered as a top-down approach where the publishing of job vacancies on EURAXESS portal became mandatory for R&D organizations, according to 2013’ amendment of higher education law. 

With regard to the diaspora, it is highlighted that researchers abroad are organized in communities according to their research interests. Thus, it is difficult to reach them in a common approach. Mr. Sanopoulos presented the experience of the Greek scientific diaspora which is considered as the second most important and a very well organized diaspora in the USA. He also highlighted that the older researchers are more motivated to consider the return to their home countries, despite the bad economic situation. What appears common in all countries from the region are two main obstacles for return: bureaucracy and the lack of research infrastructure. At the end of the discussion, Mrs. Bodnarova presented one interesting opportunity for attracting diaspora researchers working in USA to return to their home country (there are some 200.000 foreign scientists in USA, according to NSF). She said that it seems that, as the budget cuts for research in USA are increasing, more and more European scientists working there are starting to consider the return.

The afternoon session of the conference aimed to provide case studies and best practices, related to the above objectives. First, prof. dr Dragan Antić, rector of the University of Niš and prof. dr Zoran Nikolić, vicerector presented the experiences gained during the development of the first HRS4R strategy in one of the Serbian universities. Then, the floor was given to Mr. Mario Milanović, who presented the database of the scientific diaspora of Bosnia and Herzegovina.