Members of the Sejm support the changes in the financing of science
Polish Roadmap for Research Infrastructures and science information system, as well as changes to facilitate scientific careers of persons under 35 are introduces by the amended Law on the Principles of Financing Science, adopted by the Parliament on December 5th.
"The bill is a correction, but it concerns issues that are extremely important for the development of science" - said Urszula Augustyn (PO) during the work on the draft amendment. In addition to the changes to the Law on the Principles of Financing Science, the amendment changes the provisions of several other laws including the laws on: the National Science Centre, National Centre for Research and Development, the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The amendment introduces the concept of Polish Roadmap for Research Infrastructures (Polska Mapa Drogowa Infrastruktury Badawczej, PMDIB). This concept has already functioned in the higher education system, but had no direct basis in the Polish legal system. The map will contain the most important and strategic for the Polish science research facilities and equipment. The decision to include a project in the Roadmap will be taken by the Minister of Science. Requests for inclusion can be submitted by research units and consortia, scientific and industrial centres, research centres of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
During the work on the draft amendment, PiS (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, Law and Justice) proposed to replace the concept of Polish Roadmap for Research Infrastructures with the Plan for Research Equipment Development Projects. However, this idea failed to gain the support of the Sejm.
The most important changes adopted following a proposal of the National Council of Doctoral Students, also include the change of the definition of a person starting a career in science and the definition of a young scientist who is under 35 in the year of applying for funding. As stipulated in the amendment, this period may be extended by the time in which the scientist was, for example, on parental leave, or received a sickness benefit in relation to the long-term incapacity for work. The total time of such breaks may not exceed two years.
"The draft sets out the basic criteria that will be used in the allocation of funds for science. Emphasis will be put on the level of scientific work and its importance for the development of science, as well as the practical usefulness of the results. Also important in the distribution of funds will be the scientific category of each research unit, and in the case of support for investments, the particular importance of the investment for the purposes of scientific and research policy will be taken into account" - said Augustyn during the second reading of the act in Parliament. The amendment will also expedite the application of procedures related to the distribution of funds for maintenance of scientific and research potential. This will allow to use an algorithm without having to seek additional expert opinions.
The amendment will introduce science information system, complementary to the existing POL-on (higher education information system). It will contain information on achievements of scientific units, obtained patents, organized conferences, published journals. Access to most of these data will be open and public.
Provisions concerning the procedures for appeals from decisions, for example, on granting funds for science, will also be clarified. Appeal will be possible in the event of a breach of competition procedure and other formal violations and not - like before - from the experts’ assessment. This provision was criticized, among others, by the "Solidarity" and the Main Council of Research Institutes. The Sejm rejected the amendment proposed by Law and Justice to accept the appeals based on "factual errors". "This change should eliminate the existing discussion with assessments by independent experts, and to facilitate the appeal procedure" - argued Urszula Augustyn during the second reading of the amendment in the Sejm.
Research units under receivership or in liquidation will be excluded from grant procedure. During the third reading of the amendment in the Sejm Law and Justice argued, however, that applicants under receivership should not be excluded from the opportunity to apply for funds. "Units under liquidation or receivership are not completely excluded from access to budget funds for science. They may use the funds for the restructuring, reorganization, that serve the corrective processes" - emphasized Deputy Minister of Science Marek Ratajczak during the work on the amendment.
The amendment also expands the concept of scientific research. The introduction of these changes resulted from the need to adapt the definition of research to the European Commission regulations. The proposed provisions - as Deputy Minister Ratajczak said during the work on the draft - introduce the activity hitherto considered industrial into concept of research.
The amended provisions will enable the financing of tasks affecting the dissemination and promotion of knowledge and scientific achievements. Publishers of journals, including universities and research institutions that provide online access to published content, may obtain funds for creating English-language versions of the publications and participation of foreign reviewers in the evaluation of publication. Funds for science dissemination activities can also be awarded to scientific libraries that are not part of the research units.
The assumptions for the amendment of the Law on the Principles of Financing Science was presented in November 2012 by the then Minister of Science and Higher Education Barbara Kudrycka. In December of 2013 the draft was approved by the government on January 17 it was sent to the Sejm. During the parliamentary work on the government's draft amendment, for legislative reasons a supplementing draft was also prepared by the Education, Science and Youth Committee. One report was prepared based on both drafts, and therefore further legislative work was carried out on a single document. December 5th 273 deputies voted in favour of the amendment, 142 were against and one abstained.