Ten academics rewarded for research and popularisation of science

The Czech Academy of Sciences has just handed out its annual awards to scientists for outstanding results in research and for promoting and popularising science. The researchers, whose focus of interest ranges from abstract algebraic logic to forest biodiversity, will also share CZK 1 million in prize money.

Eva Zažímalová, photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech RadioEva Zažímalová, photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio Four researchers who achieved outstanding results of great scientific importance, three young scientists under the age of 35 and three experts who contributed to promoting science were awarded by the Czech Academy of Sciences on Tuesday night at a ceremony at Prague’s Villa Lanna.

Speaking to Czech Radio, Eva Zažímalová, the chairwoman of the Academy of Science, highlighted the prizes’ value in promoting research, experimental development and innovation:

“It is the most significant award given by the Czech Academy of Sciences. We are increasingly aware that while it is important to do quality research, it is equally important to inform the people who finance this research, the taxpayers.

“It is also necessary to raise awareness of our work among the young people who might follow in our footsteps. So in this respect, this award for promoting and popularising science has perhaps a bigger impact than the professional awards.”

The recipients of this award include František Vyskočil, a neuroscientist and a professor of physiology, pharmacology and neurobiology at Charles University, Professor Jan Bažant from the Academy’s Institute of Philosophy, and Libor Juha from the Institute of Nuclear Physics. Among researchers under the age of 35 who were awarded by the Czech Academy of Sciences is Ondřej Vild, from the department of botany and zoology at Masaryk University. I asked him to outline his line of research:

“My research focuses on the restoration of plant biodiversity of the traditionally managed forests in the Czech Republic. These areas in all of Central Europe have been densely inhabited since the Neolithic times and they were mostly managed by coppicing, grazing of animals and litter raking, which profoundly shaped the forests’ eco-systems.

Ondřej Vild, photo: ČTK/Michal KrumphanzlOndřej Vild, photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl “These traditional practices were gradually replaced due to the expansion of high forest in the course of 19th and 20th century. To a large extent, the decline of biodiversity that we observe today can be attributed to this change. So we are thinking that the traditionally managed practices could be re-introduced in present-day forests to counter such effects.”

How important is it for you, receiving the award? Do you think it can help you in your further research?

“I was a little bit surprised to receive the award because ecology is usually not the main topic of social importance. But ecology and nature conservation are very important and this award may be a signal that things are starting to change. And for me personally, the prize can be important when I apply for grants later in on in my scientific career.”