Research in Poland – a bureaucratic nightmare

I don’t know how common it is in Europe, but I am staggered by the amount of bureaucracy that gets in the way of doing research in Poland.  The prime example is the way purchasing of big-ticket items for your lab works. Every single piece of equipment that you want to buy has to go through a so-called public bidding process,  where multiple suppliers make offers that match a set of criteria specified a priori by the buyer (i.e. the lab head). A group of administrators then reviews the offers and decides on whose offer is best.  Usually the supplier that offers the lowest price wins the bid, and then the buyer is essentially forced to purchase from that supplier.  Stuff like reputation,  track record,  and other criteria that are either subjective or have not been clearly stated by the buyer before the process begun don’t come into play here.  So what often happens is that a researcher is stuck with equipment they do not want from a company they do not trust or have a negative experience working with. Not only that – the bidding process takes up an incredible amount of time and effort on the part of the buyer, the sellers, and the beaurocrats who run the whole show. It also offers zero flexibility to the researcher when it comes to negotiating with suppliers.

I can sort of see the rationale behind it all – it is supposed to prevent irrational or fraudulent expenditure of public money,  but the way it is instituted it does more harm than good. Maybe it’s time we started treating our researchers like responsible managers that an overwhelming majority of them are, and let them spend the money entrusted to them the way they best see fit, like they do in the US.

2 thoughts on “Research in Poland – a bureaucratic nightmare

  1. I can see it’s a tricky one. Polish bureaucracy has had a reputation for corruption, so compulsory competitive tendering might be seen as one way of tackling it. However, for every piece of lab equipment, that’s seems to be going overboard. Perhaps one way to limit the undesirable consequences might be for the researchers to write very detailed specifications for the required equipment, such as would effectively narrow the field down to one.

    • I am not sure about the Polish bureaucracy’s reputation for corruption. I am sure there are worse bureaucracies than the Polish one. Your suggested trick for writing very detailed specifications is, in fact, sometimes used in practice, but it is on the fringe of legality.

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