JiríWiedermann, President of the Czech Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics: "The swift and stormy arrival of the information age in the Czech Republic, combined with profound political and economical changes, has caused the near collapse of the established R&D base in information technology".
The Czech Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (CRCIM) joined ERCIM in May 1996. Unfortunately, the mere act of joining did not make us an equal partner. While we doubtless have the same formal rights and responsibilities, in practice the benefits for CRCIM compared to other partners are so far restricted.
In my view, there are roughly four crucial reasons that currently prevent CRCIM acting as a full-fledged partner.
Firstly, unlike other ERCIM countries, in the Czech Republic there is no corresponding demand for IT R&D either from the government, or from the local economy. This can be attributed to the profound economic transformation that has given rise to many new private and re-privatized companies that are not yet rich (or clever?) enough to support an independent national research programme.
Secondly, a great number of specialists from state supported research centres and universities, frustrated by the lack of a government research policy, especially in the field of IT, have found substantially better paid jobs abroad, in banking, in insurance and in private IT businesses.
Thirdly, the flow of young people into informatics research has been interrupted as graduate students do not see attractive career opportunities in the surviving and under-resourced government research.
Last but not least, in the Czech Republic the environment and mechanisms to encourage the cooperation of small and medium size enterprises in the area of IT R&D are missing. The legal reforms necessary to accomplish this are delayed compared to the ongoing economic and social reforms.
Facing this crisis in IT R&D, individual Czech research institutes and universities have started to actively seek involvement in European wide collaborations. ERCIM very much appeared to be an ideal platform for such enterprises. This led to the idea of establishing CRCIM as a sufficiently strong partner, and of its approaching ERCIM.
Now, specific plans must be formulated on both the ERCIM and CRCIM sides to fully integrate CRCIM within the European research community in order to optimise the benefit for both parties. Other ERCIM institutes can serve well as potential partners with ERCIM itself as a mediator. Similarly, ERCIM Working Groups can play an important role in bringing young Czech people back into R&D. CRCIM can also learn from the experience of other ERCIM partners. CRCIM will act both as a catalyst and as an active participant.
Dealing with these issues is, in my opinion, the most important task for CRCIM in the foreseeable future.