Poland’s higher education reform – new voices in the debate

I recently discussed some of the ideas presented by the Polish Science Minister Jarosław Gowin as foundations for the reform of research and higher education law in Poland. A couple of days ago, an article came out in “Polityka” (paywalled), a popular weekly journal, discussing the specific projects for the reform developed by three independent teams. The authors, Dariusz Jemielniak and Piotr Stec mostly talk about the weaknesses of these projects and the pitfalls that the lawmakers should avoid when implementing changes. I think that the most important take home message from the article is that whatever the final reform will be, it will have to be followed by a cultural change if it is to be effective. Otherwise, academics will just find ways to work around the reform and everything will remain the same. Continue reading

Polish funding agency gets its own public grant database

Those of you familiar with the US National Institutes of Health are probably aware of the NIH RePORTER – a public database of grants funded by the NIH with an advanced search system. I was really impressed that the Polish national funding agency (NCN – Narodowe Centrum Nauki – National Science Centre) set up its own equivalent – the “projekty” database. Continue reading

The geography of NCN grants

The principal Polish agency that funds basic research – the National Science Centre (Narodowe Centrum Nauki – NCN) recently published data on grant success rates and total awarded amounts divided by institutions and departments. I decided to play around with the data a little bit to see the geographical distribution of NCN largesse. The results are pretty striking: Continue reading

Salary support for technicians in National Science Centre grants

The NCN (National Science Centre) website has recently published a report from their April Council Meeting. There are quite a few interesting tidbits of information there, including plans for “mini-grants” that would support scientists that have not held an NCN grant before and who need some seed money for preliminary work or other expenses, such as conference participation. What caught my attention, however, was that the Council discussed the issue of bringing back salary support for technical staff as a legitimate expense in NCN grant budgets. In 2015 there has been a major shift as to who can receive full salary from an NCN grant. Before the change, any team member could be supported on NCN money, afterwards only the PI, PhD students, and post-docs were allowed to have their full salary/stipend included in the grant budget. This was significant, because according to NCN regulations, a post-doc must have received their PhD at most 5 years prior to being supported. Continue reading

Success rate for the major Polish biomed grant dips below 15%

Funding decisions for the 7th edition of the major Polish research grant, the OPUS, have recently been announced. For those of you who are more familiar with the American system, the OPUS is sort of like the R01, except it’s for 3 years rather than 5. I had submitted a proposal and was fortunate enough to  secure funding, but many others, including some excellent research groups, did not. I was curious as to how the statistics for this funding mechanism had changed over the years, and the results don’t look pretty (source the Statistics page of the National Science Centre and, for Opus 7, preliminary statistics on the NCN website). Since I am most interested in the NZ section (Biomedical sciences), I will focus on this one. Here’s a breakdown of the success rates by call for proposal:Funding_rates_Opus Continue reading

Grant writing in Poland

It’s been an insanely busy couple months for me. I have just gone back to Poland to pursue my research career here. Not only did I have to finish up all my experiments at Stanford, but I also wanted to apply for a Polish grant for young investigators who want to start their own research group. It has been a great learning experience and also an opportunity to compare the grant proposal submission process in Poland and in the US. There are marked similarities, but also significant differences. Just to be clear, I will be comparing the NIH R01 type submissions, which are the most common ‘big’ grants for biomedical research in the States with the Opus or Sonata Bis grants from the National Science Center (Narodowe Centrum Nauki; NCN) in Poland, again a typical ‘big’ grant, but one not limited to biomedical research.
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