During the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics era, the Republics and their aligned nations were assigned responsibilities for areas of economic concentration on behalf of the entire Soviet bloc. These obligations included the pursuit of explicit areas of fundamental scientific research, technology development and any subsequent and related manufacturing operations.
Academies of science were adapted or newly created to have near-total control of most fundamental science research facilities and staffs. Through the research institute model they often also controlled many of the required support roles for their mission areas, as well as follow-on technology development and manufacturing. They received budgets directly from government appropriations. The head of a research institute had great authority – often total authority – to not only suballocate the budgeted funds to research programs and projects assigned to that institute, but also to appoint staff to conduct specific projects and negotiate in-kind agreements with other institutes to obtain supplies.
Soviet bloc universities were not generally assigned significant research responsibilities or budgets. Education and research were managed as separate activities (unlike the North American research university model). Individual university professors were not paid to do research, had very limited research facilities and equipment, and were often not allowed to compete for research projects as part of their university responsibilities. Three generations of scientists were deeply affected by this Soviet research system.
The collapse of the integrated regional command and control economy disrupted or severed many of these established relationships and operations. Research budgets were slashed. Academies lost important staff; they could not adequately maintain facilities and equipment or obtain supplies. Research projects were restricted or cancelled and entire research groups were disbanded in whole or part. Intellectual relationships were interrupted. Travel to international conferences and access to leading scientific publications became a luxury.
Since 1990 the newly independent states and other affected nations have been rebuilding research and development activities as part of their economic recoveries. The conviction of the scientific and technical community, shared also by most of the political leadership and ordinary citizens of Europe, is that amazing, inexorable bonds connect past scientific triumphs with today's improving social and economic situation. They believe today's investments in science and technology will pay off for them in the future.
Rebuilding efforts have been accompanied by planning activities which consider new and different mechanisms to agree on national research budgets. University-based research has become an important reality. Academies and their institutes have had to set priorities among their remaining activities. New international research partnerships have been formed, and are increasingly common.
It remains a hard reality that only limited governmental funds are available for research investments in the region. National transportation and communications systems for security, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and other purposes demand huge budgets. Health and housing needs are immense. Education for the young and pensions for the old are expensive propositions. Fundamental research is at the table, but seldom has a favored place unless it appears to be essential for military or popular social purposes.
The struggles to regain research prominence occur in a world characterized by change and new challenges. The Asian economic powerhouses, the European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are in growth modes. All modern societies are enhancing their science and technology bases. The supply of competent researchers and the costs of doing research are increasing rapidly around the globe. In addition, regional and local conflicts have adversely affected some states.
Against this historic backdrop the Bulgarian science policy framework has been briskly moving forward. In 2003 the Bulgarian Council of Ministers approved a national scientific programme and appointed the Minister of Education and Science to coordinate it. Also in 2003 the National Assembly passed the Law on Scientific Research Promotion, which declared scientific research to be a national priority which required both a strategy and a funding mechanism. In 2005 the Council of Ministers adopted a Strategy for Scientific Research Development.
As part of the development of Bulgarian science policy a team from Bulgaria, headed by Albena Vutsova, visited the United States in October, 2003. As part of its review of US practices in science and technology the team members spent time with the US National Science Foundation and attended its Program Management Seminar. This Seminar was conducted by Rose & Crangle, Ltd, a contractor to the National Science Foundation.
In 2004 the Ministry of Education and Science in Bulgaria, in partnership with Rose & Crangle, Ltd in the United States, submitted an Advanced Research Workshop proposal to NATO for the express purpose of exploring how the Bulgarian research, development and policy communities could more closely integrate their science policy and research evaluation practices with those of other European and NATO countries.
The proposal was accepted. The workshop was conducted in May, 2005, at the Grand Hotel Murgavets in the beautiful mountain community of Pamporovo, Bulgaria. It proved to be a popular event. Over sixty speakers and participants eventually attended the programme, coming from at least seventeen nations, NATO headquarters and the European Commission.
The focus was evaluation. How do various nations evaluate research and development projects? How do they evaluate the effectiveness of the institutions which sponsor or conduct such projects? How do they set priorities for their science and technology efforts and institutions? From an historical perspective, how have these developments occurred? What methods are countries planning to use to guide their future scientific growth?
These and related themes were addressed by the speakers. Discussions continued informally – but often passionately – during breaks in the proceedings. The programme for the Workshop, together with the names of the primary speakers and many of the attendees, are provided in an Appendix to this volume.
Common themes emerged. There was very great agreement on the importance of science and technology to the economies of Bulgaria, the region, NATO nations and the entire world. There was agreement that the role of the government is critical in supporting basic, fundamental research which can not, will not, or should not be undertaken purely by private companies and organizations. There was agreement that public resources in even the wealthiest nations are limited. Consequently, there was agreement that choices must be made not only among the priority areas which compete for investment funds, but also the specific fundamental research projects proposed within each such priority area. Choices must also be made as to which organizations are best suited to conduct the investigations.
The workshop presentations often suggested that the most significant societal returns on research investments are attained by funding specific projects and principal investigators, rather than by following the Soviet tradition of budgeting institutions. Proposal evaluations appear to be most useful when both the apparent intellectual merit of a proposal and the likelihood that the proposal can provide broader and favorable national impacts are taken into account.
Bulgarian science and technology leaders (from government ministries, the Academy, universities and private companies) who attended the workshop engaged science policy leaders from fifteen other European nations as well as the United States and NATO. This had an immediate and beneficial impact on the ongoing discussions concerning research evaluation practices and science policy within Bulgaria.
A Bulgarian consensus is emerging about how fundamental research projects are to be selected for funding. A similar consensus may be emerging about how programs and institutions should be evaluated for their effectiveness in selecting research projects. The Workshop has been an important milestone in this journey.
The papers included in this volume were prepared, and in some cases further edited, by the workshop speakers. It is fortunate that most speakers were able to provide full manuscripts. In other cases the editor has attempted to summarize excellent PowerPoint presentations which did not have an associated manuscript. No attempt has been made to include full PowerPoint presentations, but upon being contacted it is probable that speakers would gladly share these with interested persons.
The articles have undergone final editing as to style. As the editor of this compendium I take full responsibility for any errors which I may have introduced in preparing the articles for publication, and especially in preparation of summaries of PowerPoint presentations.
There is one final important matter I must address. I express my gratitude, and the appreciation of all of the workshop speakers and participants, to Lora Pavlova of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science. She and her staff worked tirelessly to prepare for and administer the workshop, and to bring it to a successful conclusion. Lora deserves a huge amount of credit for all that she accomplished.
Bob Crangle, November 30, 2005