Faculty of Science Dean debates with employees and students

Photo: Šárka Chovancová
thursday 31. january 2019, 16:00 – Text: Šárka Chovancová

Last Wednesday during a debate with employees and students, Dean Martin Kubala of the UP Faculty of Science discussed various topics, including further development of the faculty, improving research conditions, institutional accreditation, plans to build a system for equipment sharing and wage policy.

The Dean said that the common goal for the coming years should be the establishment of a strong faculty, which would become an important and respected institution in the field of higher education and advanced research. Simultaneously, he drew attention to the fact that since 2015 the scientific performance of the faculty has been stagnating and is in need of new impetus.

At the beginning, the Dean discussed the issue of building a corporate culture while simultaneously emphasising that the leadership duties should be regarded as a service to the academic community and their performance as management of an entrusted division. “The number of employees who have received a grant is much more important than the number of grants obtained by the director, when considering a workplace evaluation. Opportunity should be given to everyone, according to their capabilities,” said the Dean.

The Dean perceives institutional accreditation as an opportunity for change and wants to put particular emphasis on the quality of education. One such opportunity for improving research conditions is offered by an upcoming project for establishing core facilities, thanks to which faculty departments would share the use of some of the equipment. For that purpose there could be special rooms for shared centrifuges and spectrometers in the Envelopa and Holice campuses. Other more sophisticated devices would remain in place and become available for students and researchers, either for free or for a small fee.

The faculty management hopes that the establishment of core facilities will enable better use of expensive instrumentation and therefore more effective management. Kubala believes that this project could also increase the chances of the UP research teams to succeed in grant competitions. However, some in attendance expressed their concerns that if the project of shared equipment will take effect it could have a negative impact on the professional growth of young scientists in that they would not gain experience in operating core facilities’ devices, since that would be done by selected operators only.

“First and foremost it’s about the qualified people needed. You will also need a suitable room, which is rather expensive. I cannot imagine that such devices will be moved and centralised,” said Jozef Šamaj of the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research. The devices placed in the core facilities will be operated only by selected operators.

However, according to the Dean, such concerns are unjustified. Only the most sophisticated devices, such as an electron microscope, will be operated by a specialist. “Thanks to the guaranteed access to the devices, establishing new independent research teams such as junior teams or European Research Council (ERC) grant executors could be much easier,” he said.

At Wednesday’s debate, the Dean also talked about wages of faculty employees, which vary greatly – particularly at the lower posts. Therefore it is important to bear in mind the significant increase in salaries which has occurred in the public and private sector when forming a wage policy. “We need to take into account our technical-economic staff, as well as doctoral students, assistants and lower posts whose wages in the private sector could be comparable or even higher than in the public sphere. We cannot do without them,” said Kubala, who believes that faculty employees should have standard wages and employment contracts, which would stabilise the personnel situation.