Last week, the Czech Academy of Sciences awarded outstanding young researchers with the Wichterle Prize, named after Czech chemist Otto Wichterle, the inventor of the contact lenses. Seventeen young men and four young women received the awards for their outstanding achievement in the fields of science and humanities. The awards which are now in their forth year also go with a financial reward.
Occasions like this traditionally raise the issue of the working and living conditions for young scientists in the Czech Republic and consequently the problem of the "brain drain" which concerns many people.
One of those awarded was Tomas Marvan who specialises in early modern philosophy and contemporary philosophy in the so-called Anglo-Saxon world.
"I don't want to complain because I work at the Academy and they try hard to give a decent salary to everyone and they really support young people. But of course, it could be better. My view of the situation is that it's the universities that are in trouble now. I teach at Charles University and I have to teach for free because they can't afford to pay me and other people. I should say I'm what they call an external member of the department but still, it's a rather peculiar situation."
Professor Vaclav Paces was elected chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences just over two months ago and as he says the award ceremony last week was the most enjoyable moment for him since taking office. Professor Paces is well aware of the difficulties young scientists have to face in the Czech Republic. However, he says many things are easier for them than they were for the previous generations.
"It is easier than when I was a young scientist because we were in
complete isolation from world science. Today young scientists, whether
they are from the universities or from the Academy of Sciences, have the
whole world open in front of them. They all communicate freely with those
they want to communicate with, their colleagues everywhere in the world.
On the other hand, the salaries are still low, the money for their
research is still not adequate, it is still not as high as we would wish
it to be. But I think, and you can see it on those who were awarded today,
that they are people who evidently enjoy science and I am sure that we have
many more of them."
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