Slovakia's young scientists are looking for international experience. More and more, they are taking advantage of programmes which allow them to move around. The number of them using the online database of the Slovak mobility centres increased by 43 percent in the first half of this year. Anca Dragu went out to discover if this mobility was working both ways:
Slovakia has two mobility centres - one in Bratislava and the second in the eastern town of Kosice. Both were set up in 2004 and are co-financed by the European Union and the Slovak Ministry of Education. They act as information centres, providing young scientists with information on a wide range of topics from research grants to how to find accommodation or obtain visas and residence permits abroad. They are linked to a specialized online database of the European Union aiming to put in contact scientists from around the world. In the first half of this year 26,500 Slovaks accessed the database, and 100 of them have contacted the mobility centres for additional information. There are no statistics on how many of them succeeded in going abroad. Marketa Derdakova, a researcher with the Parasitological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Science, is one of those browsing the web to find opportunities of international scientific cooperation:
"I think many scientists go abroad and try to stay as long as possible, try to finish their PhD and go for post doc because there is much more money in science there. They don't have to face problems in dealing with bureaucratic issues. They are part of big research groups. But some of them come back and try to work in science here too."
The mobility centres' consultants say that 80 percent of Slovaks using their service have a background in engineering and natural sciences. The same percentage applies to foreign scientists coming to do research in Slovakia because the good news is that they have started to knock at the doors of Slovak universities. Karla Hola, a project manager with the mobility centre in Bratislava, says their number doubled year on year.
"I think that things are improving here in Slovakia. It is going to spend more on research. Slovakia has become an interesting point for researchers, especially from the East. If you look at the statistics, last year we were contacted by only nine foreigners but after promoting the opportunity of coming to Slovakia by means of the national scholarship programme, we were contacted by 21 people in the first half of this year. I think it is quite a success."
Foreign PhD students interested in doing research in Slovakia can apply for a scholarship of slightly over 350 euros per month, granted by the Slovak government. It's less than the average wage in Slovakia but more than a Slovak PhD student gets. Karla Hola says that the application process is not bureaucratic. That may be true for those who are citizens of the European Union but the others still have to face the bureaucratic immigration authorities. The Slovak immigration law allows up to three months for a residence permit application to be processed. The applicant is not allowed to study or work in Slovakia during this period. A fast track visa scheme for researchers has yet to be designed in Slovakia.
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