Volume: 5, Issue: 1/2

1/05/2013

From the Post-Soviet Space to the European Research Area: Moldovan Association to the Seventh Research Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7)
Дука, Георгий [about] , Стах, Диана [about]

DESCRIPTORS:  EU Research and Development Policies, European Research Area, science management evolution, Framework Programme 7, Associated Country

SYNOPSIS: The goal of the present work is to reveal the major steps in Moldovan research and development policy that occurred during the last two decades and to underline their impact on Moldovan academic space and configuration. In doing so, the outline of Moldovan research institutions emergence prior to 1991 is synthesized as this established tradition unleashed a number of processes that generated structural inertia in numerous attempts to adapt a Moldovan model of science management to the new realities. National and European policies in the field are brought into discussion, as well as the change of the Moldovan status as a country associated to the Seventh Framework Programme.


The tradition of higher education in the Republic of Moldova starts with the foundation of the Institute of Public Education in 1930 in Tiraspol. In the decades that followed, the most important research and education institutions were organized: Department of Agricultural Sciences, based on the experience of Agricultural University of Iasi, Romania (1933), Moldovan Pedagogical Institute (1940), Medical University (1945), Pedagogical Institute of Balti (1945), Chisinau State University (1946) and some years later – Moldovan Technical University (1964). Hand in hand with Moldovan higher education evolution, the Academy of Sciences of Moldova was coming into being. Thus, on June 12, 1946, the Decision “On Setting up the Moldovan Base of Scientific Researches of the Academy of Sciences of USSR in the town of Chisinau” was adopted. Three years later the Base was reorganized into the Moldovan Branch of the Academy of Sciences of USSR and in 1960 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Council of Ministers of the Moldovan SSR adopted the Decision, “On the Setting up of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences.”                                                                                                          Similar to the academic landscape, common for the entire Soviet Union, the research was performed in Institutes of different national academies while the universities were supposed to do the job of teaching with minor involvement in producing new knowledge. Such a structure remained functional by the late 1980s when about 20,000 researchers were involved in the Academy of Sciences of Moldova.

The early 1990s was a highly ambiguous period since, on the one hand, it was a time when Moldova became an independent state – August 27, 1991, and, on the other hand, it had to face a number of challenges – economic, political and social. The impact of these transformations upon the research infrastructure of the country was disastrous. Constant decrease of research funding from 0.73 % in 1990 to 0.18 % in 2001 of GDP share, doubled by the collapse of research networks previously interconnected due to a common political space, led to a dramatic dropout rate among researchers.3

We can name a number of reasons for this situation. First of all, an overall economic crisis and the rejection of the former values’ system tremendously decreased the prestige of science. A number of researchers took advantage of the open borders of the former Soviet territory and decided to leave the country in order to continue their research in Western Europe or the USA. Another numerous group of researchers was represented by those whose findings could not be used by the economy of such a small state as Moldova, e.g. army, petrol, heavy industry, so that they had to convert to other fields or offer their expertise to the private sector. Mostly, this kind of conversion to non-academic and/or other research fields was a frequent phenomenon in the field of Humanities as certain specializations became inappropriate outside the Soviet ideological framework.                                                               

Willing to respond to the new context, Moldovan authorities made several attempts to create a functional research paradigm based on a long-term strategy aimed at research and higher education convergence. Thus, the Upper Attestation Council was founded in 1992, and in 2004, it was reorganized into the National Council for Accreditation and Attestation, a body in charge for evaluation and accreditation of science and innovation institutions, as well as attestation of higher education instructors and researchers (see Art. 90, 91, 92 in the Code on Science and Innovation of Moldova, 2004).  When it comes to science and education management proper, however, the process proved more challenging and demanding. At first, based on Western models, Ministry of Education became the authority in charge with research management, provided such a change would prove successful in joining the fields of research and higher education. The years between 1999 and 2001 witnessed numerous attempts to design the legal framework for science and innovation.

As a consequence, the Supreme Council for Science and Technological Development undertook the responsibility of science management being a body with Ministerial powers subordinated to the Government. The fact that Moldova had a previous academic tradition far too different from the new model, the lack of research management experience of the bodies involved in this process, as well as the insufficient state financial support to research and education led to few positive outcomes by the end of a transition decade.   

The beginning of a new phase in the process of research infrastructure evolution was connected with the adoption of the Code on Science and Innovation, ratified by the Moldovan Parliament on July 15, 2004. The new law granted the Academy of Sciences the authority of a Ministry of Science so that President of the Academy of Sciences was delegated with Government competences to implement state policy in the sphere of science and innovation: The Academy of Sciences becomes the sole public institution of national importance in the field of science and innovation, the plenipotentiary coordinator of the scientific and innovational activities, the supreme scientific forum and scientific adviser to the public authorities  (Code Art. 71, (1), 2004). In the meantime, President of the Academy of Sciences becomes member of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Moldova (Code, Art 82, (2a), 2004) and countersigns the decisions issued by the Government regarding science and innovation, education and national programs of socio-economic development (Code, Art 82, (2f), 2004).

This dialogue between Science and Government is reinforced by the Partnership Agreement signed for a period of four years. Research was then directed towards supporting the national strategic orientations as reflected in the National Strategy of Development of the Republic of Moldova 2008-2011 (law # 295-XVI, December 21, 2007). On the other hand, these national research priorities were formulated taking into consideration the EU research objectives, and Moldovan strategic directions in the sphere of science and innovation for the years 2006-2010 became as such:

  • Building a law-based state and exploring Moldovan cultural and historic patrimony in the context of the European integration.
  • Development of human, natural and IT resources to provide sustainability and growth.
  • Biomedicine, pharmaceutics, health maintenance, and fortification.
  • Agrarian biotechnologies, soil fertility and food security.
  • Nanotechnologies, industrial engineering, new products, and materials.
  • Increase of energy complex and energy security, renewable resources included.

The new legal frame made possible the elaboration of a long-term far-reaching strategy in the field of science and innovation. The short-term consequences of these changes resulted in the increase of the Research and Development allocation from 0.22 % of GDP in 2004 to 0.70 % in 2008 (Table 1).

Table 1. Research indicators (2004 – 2008)

National Bureau of Statistics Indicators

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

R&D allocations in % of GDP

0.22

0.37

0.46

0.65

0.70

Organizations conducting R&D activity

86

88

67

76

70

Personnel employed in R&D activity

6696

6678

6299

6522

5314

Scientific researchers

2725

2583

2583

2592

3471

The Agreement signed between the Government and the Academy of Sciences of Moldova for the years 2009 – 2012 was aimed at supporting the results accomplished during the previous period and further consolidate Moldovan research infrastructure. Against the background of the National Strategy of Development of the Republic of Moldova 2008-2011 (Law # 295-XVI, December 21, 2007) stating European integration as a major goal, the activity of the Academy of Sciences was directed towards internationalization of research and creating opportunities for Moldovan scientific community to participate in European projects. 42 bilateral agreements signed with the European Academies and Research Organizations were preliminary steps leading in this direction4. However, the proper integration into European Research Area (ERA) started in 2008 with the Action Plan “Moldova Knowledge Excellence Initiative” approved by Decision #230 of the Supreme Council for Science and Technological Development of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, and later reinforced by the Action Plan of the Republic of Moldova stating Moldova’s association with the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) as a reform priority in the field of European integration.

Seventh Research Framework Programme has been the main tool for financing research in Europe with a budget of about 53 billion euros allocated for the period 2007 – 2013. The overall goal of the Programme is to contribute to the economic development and knowledge-based society in the EU by consolidating the ERA. Participation in FP7 is open to a great variety of institutions starting with universities, research centers, multinational corporations to SMEs, public authorities, etc. In the majority of cases participation in FP7 is possible only through multi-country consortia coordinated either by an EU Member State or Associated Country.

In May 2009, the European Union launched the Eastern Partnership Initiative aimed at creating “the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the European Union and interested partner countries.” (Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership, 2009), namely the six countries covered by the European Neighborhood Policy – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.  The new framework was set for “creating a stronger basis for multilateral cooperation” (European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, Strategy Paper 2010 - 2013) and the four thematic platforms expected to support it, were: 1) democracy, good governance and stability; 2) socio-economic integration and convergence with EU policies; 3) energy security; and 4) contacts between people. The last one turned to be particularly important for the academic community since it presupposes cooperation “on a number of popular Community and external assistance programs, notably in the area of education, including language learning, youth and research.” (Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council, COM (2008) 823, 2008).

Against such a background, the National Committee for Association of the Republic of Moldova with the Seventh Framework Programme was created by Governmental Decree No. 515 in August 2009. The representatives of relevant ministries, public authorities, and state organizations were nominated as members of the National Committee being expected to support and monitor Moldova’s association to FP7. On the other hand, as stated in the Joint Declaration (2009) each thematic platform was supposed to nominate a working group meeting at least twice a year in order to conclude on the progresses in the field. As a logical consequence, on January 12, 2010, the negotiations regarding the EU-Moldova Cooperation were launched, a fact that resulted in numerous high level meetings, including meetings between representatives of the European Commission and those of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova (Raport, 2011); moreover, the meetings of the EU-Moldova Cooperation Committee and those of Subcommittee No. 4 on “Energy, Environment, Transport and Telecommunications, Science and Technology, Training and Education” enhanced a fruitful dialogue on research and innovation accomplishments as well as on the recent progress in Moldovan research policy.

September 30, 2010 was another important moment in Moldova’s advancement towards ERA, as the then-Prime-Minister of the Republic of Moldova, Vlad Filat and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fule, signed the Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement for participation in EU programs. In order to associate with a certain program of the EU Moldova was supposed to negotiate and sign a Memorandum of Understanding stating participation conditions, as well as the rights and obligations Moldova would have to fulfill within such collaborations.  Subsequently, a series of meetings on Memorandum negotiations followed and on October 11, 2011, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and Gheorghe Duca, President of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova, officially signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the association of Moldova with the EU's Seventh Research Framework Program.

Until January 1, 2012, the Republic of Moldova was under the category of the so called Third Countries, meaning a country that is not a Member State and has no Memorandum of understanding signed with the EU, but eligible for certain specific calls launched within the FPs. Moldova’s first experiences with the FPs go back to FP6. These sustained efforts to integrate in the existing European research networks helped Moldovan scientists to receive additional funding for interdisciplinary research, be supported in the fields with no critical mass in the country, as well as make possible research mobility from and to the EU. In the status of third country representatives Moldovan researchers participated in about 130 proposal submissions with a success rate of 20%, an average success rate in FP7 at the level of the EU.

The association itself provided Moldovan research community with new opportunities such as:

  • Become a full-standing partner in the ERA, with the right to cooperate and collaborate as an equal partner in all calls launched by the European Commission;
  • Integrate into the European researchers’ networks and decision-making bodies in the field of research and innovation;
  • Initiate research projects, create European consortia and appoint representatives to ERA and FP7 Program Committees;
  • Receive access to additional funding and to a huge amount of knowledge;
  • Participate in the research initiatives subject to Articles 169 and 171 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (2002);
  • Become member of EURAXESS Job Portal.

Hand in hand with the integration to the ERA went the alignment to European Higher Education Area (EHEA) standards, an aim supported by the Bologna Process Memorandum signed in 2005. Both, the association to FP7 and joining the EHEA, offer multiple possibilities, as well as challenges for both academic and private environments. Moldovan university graduates are thus to compete for individual scholarships or group research funding with their counterparts from other European Union countries. Moreover, the emerging challenges for scientists tend to acquire a global dimension so that apart from competition next generation of Moldovan researchers should be able to initiate a worldwide scholarly dialogue, work in multicultural teams and contribute to final research product delivery and exploitation. Moldovan National Reports5 underline the progress made in the field of Higher Education alignment with the principles stated in the EHEA declarations6 by the adoption of a two-cycle system in Higher Education, development of a plan-frame for cycle I, creating the legal frame for cycle II, as well as establishing numerous bilateral collaborations between Moldovan and European universities, active involvement in international cooperation through different projects, TEMPUS projects among them.

The same reports, as well as the analyses undertaken within a number of international projects points to a number of drawbacks in the present HE Moldovan system such as lack of continuity in ensuring the research and education synergy, few efforts in developing the social dimension of the university as an institution, no involvement of employers in the decision making and/or quality assurance process, among others. The problem becomes even more complex since the National Qualification Framework elaborated in 2008 has not yet been approved and there is no specific timetable for its implementation. We still expect the new Code on Education to be promulgated, but the present political crisis makes it impossible to estimate a deadline.

Becoming part of ERA and EHEA has substantially contributed to Moldovan integration in the European academic networks, adopting a broader scope in terms of formulating Research and Development objectives aligned with the longer-term European policies in the field of science and innovation.

References:

  1. Codul cu privire la știință și inovare al Republicii Moldova, nr.259-XV din 15 iulie 2004,  Monitorul Oficial al Republicii Moldova, 2004.
  2. Consolidated Version of the Treaty Establishing the European Community, Official Journal of the European Communities, 24.12.2002, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/dat/12002E/pdf/12002E_EN.pdf
  3. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council, Eastern Partnership, Brussels, 3.12.2008, COM(2008) 823 final, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2008:0823:FIN:EN:PDF
  4. European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, Strategy Paper 2010-2013 and Indicative Programme 2010 – 2013, Annex, European Commission, http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/pdf/country/2011_enpi_nip_regional_east_en.pdf
  5. National Strategy of Development of the Republic of Moldova 2008-2011 (law # 295-XVI, December 21, 2007
  6. Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit, Prague, 7 May 2009, Council of the European Union, Brussels, 7 May 2009, 8435/09 (Presse 78), http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/er/107589.pdf
  7. Raport privind activitatea Consiliului Suprem pentru Știință și Dezvolatare Tehnologică și rezultatele științifice principale, obținute șn sfera științei și inovării în perioada anilor 2006 – 2007, Academia de Științe a Moldovei, Chișinău, 2011.

Web resources:

  1. www.asm.md
  2. www.cordis.europa.eu/fp7/related_en.html
  3. http://www.easternpartnership.org
  4. www.ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm
  5. www.edu.md
  6. www.fp7.asm.md
  7. www.increast.eu
  8. www.international.asm.md

 1 Here and further in the paper we will use the British variant of the word “programme” as the official name of the European Commission research funding tool is “Seventh Research Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.”

2 Gheorghe Duca, PhD, Postdoctoral degree, Professor, President of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova; Diana Stah, PhD, Associate Professor, Tiraspol State University, Chisinau, Moldova.

3 The total went down from 20,000 in the early 1990s to about 6,000 scientists in all institutes of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova in the late 1990s. 

4 See more details at www.international.asm.md/bilateral/agreements.html

5 National Reports on Bologna Process Principles implementation available at http://www.ehea.info/article-details.aspx?ArticleId=86

6 Bologna Declaration (1999) which claims a European dimension in Higher Education; Prague Communiqué (2001) which focuses, among others, on Life Long Learning; Berlin Communiqué (2003) which advocates the convergence of European Research Area (ERA) and European Higher Education Area (EHEA); Leuven Communiqué (2009) which underline the major importance of academic mobility.

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