Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Research possibilities in Poland

Marta (winner of the award "the best Polish scientist of 2006") comments on a Nature article criticizing Polish research environment:

Dear Sir,

It is not true that Poland offers no possibilities for young
repatriates to establish their independent research groups. It is
also not true that Western grants do not create new laboratory space,
as claimed by Dr. Szklarczyk.

In 2005 I returned to Poland after twelve years spent abroad,
comprising PhD studies and two postdoctoral positions in molecular
cell biology. In 2003 I took part in an international competition and
was offered a group leader position at the International Institute of
Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw (IIMCB). Immediately after, I
started applying for funds to support my future group. I did receive
grants from the international programmes of both the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute and the Wellcome Trust which, in contradiction to
what Dr. Szklarczyk claims, served me to create a completely new
research group. I complemented these funds with grants from the
European Union, Max Planck Society and Polish Ministry of Science
which allowed me to build a research team of nine and to attract
postdoctoral fellows, including Polish repatriates, from abroad.

I took a conscious decision of returning to Poland because I believed
that here I will be able to develop my independent research, without
compromising on its quality but having sufficient funds and being in
a supportive environment. From a two years perspective, I do not
regret my decision.

I agree that Polish scientific system is far from being perfect and
indeed needs deep reforms, in particular the rejuvenation of its
faculty staff. Despite some recent initiatives, e.g. from the
Foundation for Polish Science, more needs to be done to facilitate
early independence of young scientists and to attract our compatriots
from abroad. I am, however, convinced that the best young researchers
striving for independence can find attractive options for their
future in Poland, if they are ready to openly compete for positions
and funds. Those successful will find here conditions known from the
Western institutions.

Finally, I strongly believe that expressing such one-sided, negative
views as presented by Dr. Szklarczyk creates a distorted image of the
real situation in Poland and, more regrettably, discourages Poles
abroad to even think about returning. But who will push for changes
in Polish science to occur if we all stay abroad?


I hope that Nature will publish her response...

Added on 28th of March 2007: and they did!