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Poland KNOWs it! The government launches programme for leading national research centres

In January 2012, the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education announced the first round of the KNOW competition. KNOW is the Polish acronym for Leading National Research Centres (Krajowe Naukowe Ośrodki Wiodące). Not unlike excellence initiatives seen in recent years in such countries as Germany and France, the KNOW programme aims to identify the Polish higher education institutions (HEIs) with the highest research potential, with the goal of supporting them financially in their efforts to compete with the best research universities in the world. The competition is part of the newly launched reform of the higher education system in Poland (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, March 2011), and aspires to address the historical fragmentation of Polish science centres, whereby prominent scientists and the best laboratories are dispersed all over the country. The KNOWs should help to substantially improve the state of Polish science by better focusing resources, knowledge, energy and money in select centres of excellence.

The KNOWs will be selected on a competitive basis in several key areas specified by the Ministry. Basic organisational units of Polish universities, university scientific centres and scientific consortia are eligible to submit proposals, which will be evaluated by expert panels consisting of prominent scholars from Poland and abroad. The winners will receive five-year subsidies (up to PLN 10 million, or approximately EUR 2.3 million per year) and will be able to decide on their own how to spend these monies. For example, they can offer special doctoral grants or fund the participation of their staff in international research projects and young scientists’ development programmes. The deadline for applications is 9 March 2012. The results will be presented in early May 2012.

The Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education, Barbara Kudrycka, is already a strong proponent of the plan, noting “Such concentration of substantial scientific capacity in certain HEIs will lead to taking up by them [of] innovative research topics, enhancing international cooperation and creating working conditions that will enable scientists to focus fully on conducting studies, developing their talents as well as following their scientific passions”.

Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (in Polish)