We practice science not for ourselves, not for its own sake, but for society, the participants of the “Science for Society” Congress repeatedly emphasized. Scientists must share their knowledge, bring what they do closer to the public and solicit new talents willing to develop science in Poland. They urged not to be afraid of change, challenges, or difficulties because only then the chosen path will mean development, not survival.
The “Science for Society” Congress, held on June 3-5, 2023, at the Warsaw University of Technology in Warsaw and the World Hearing Center in Kajetany, was the first event of this type. It was initiated by the Main Council of Research Institutes in Poland, with the Łukasiewicz Research Network, Warsaw University of Technology, the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, and the Institute of Educational Research involved in its organization. This Congress showed how deeply science may and should connect people.
– It is a unique and multi-dimensional meeting. We visited various places, the health town, the picnic organized by the Warsaw University of Technology students, the exhibition, and the lecture halls. We had an opportunity to learn about the achievements of various research teams, institutes, and universities. The very good and the best were with us. The interdisciplinarity of science we could see here, and we talked about a lot, is very encouraging, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, Chairman of the Main Council of Research Institutes, concluded. – Daily, we are unaware of many achievements taking place and presented during the Congress. And yet Poles have the right to know and be proud that the scientific community in Poland has excellent achievements, the MCRI Chairman continued. He stressed that the public must be taught proper perspective on scientists and science, including scientific establishments.
This was the driving force of the event organizers. They wanted to show the multitude of developments in this area of science, its tremendous impact on society’s functioning, and the enormous changes we are witnessing. Scientists do not want to be mere authors of knowledge; they want to be educators of future generations, inspiring society and encouraging others to develop their talents.
The “Science for Society” Congress was an indisputable success, bringing science lovers and scientists together in one place and time. During the three days, they could share their knowledge and experiences, establish contacts and even initiate a joint research future. The event was open to the public and free of charge.
Benefits for all
– We are united by science, although we talk about it differently and practice it differently, operating in different fields. Sometimes we also have different opinions about how it should be organized and function. But regardless, it always brings us together, as this Congress has shown, stressed Dr. Andrzej Dybczyński, President of the Łukasiewicz Research Network. He explained that science can bring people together in two ways. – We practice it not for ourselves, not for its own sake, but for society. Science is meaningful insofar as it benefits society. This Congress has shown that we can combine our forces and our thinking about science. Whether we are institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, research institutes, or the Łukasiewicz Network Institutes, we should speak in one voice about how science should function, he stressed. He also expressed his hope that this first Congress would not be the last one.
– This is not just a need but a necessity for scientists to meet. We need to see the connection between what we do in our daily research work and its addressees. We need to know how others perceive our work, dr hab. Paweł Gondek, Deputy Director of the Institute of Educational Research for Sciences, emphasized.
The future of research institutes in Poland
Everyone can choose one of two directions. We can strive to survive, to exist, or take the direction of development.
– To grow, we must make a difference. Research institutes – whether they are institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Łukasiewicz institutes, or those belonging to the Main Council – if they do not make a difference, they will probably survive but not grow, as they should. They will not deliver the society, the economy, Europe, and the world what they should, dr Andrzej Dybczyński explained.
What can be done to make a difference? In this area, industry, or field of scientific operation, everything depends on the talent and the person who “has that divine spark.” This is something that cannot be explained. We need a person who can create an idea, has a vision, and is able to make a difference. The authors of the “Science for Society” congress stressed that without such talents, science in Poland would have no future.
What should be done to make such talents emerge? We need three things.
- First, in scientific establishments, talents must have ensured working conditions for safe functioning, including in the most mundane, personal, and material sense, so they are not tempted to flee to corporations or abroad.
- Second, one must provide the infrastructure that will facilitate the work. If scientists don’t have the best infrastructure, colleagues from abroad will quickly overtake them – because they will see farther, deeper, and faster.
- Third, talents should function in an environment facilitating their development and stimulation. Talents may not be alienated – they need to go to lunch and talk to each other, have colleagues to work with, and partners who will encourage them to want to stay at an institute. It’s also essential to remove barriers inhibiting the work and development of talented people, such as procurement laws, sluggish administration, or bureaucracy.
This Congress was the first, but its organizers and participants hoped it would not be the last. – It is impossible to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in one conference or one Congress. This process requires more commitment and time, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński said.
During the Congress, the “Decalogue” of the Main Council of Research Institutes was presented (see the attachment) – a document that representatives of the institutes belonging to the MCRI prepared out of concern for the future of science in Poland and Polish researchers. – The “Decalogue” is the result of extensive consultations and analysis based on the knowledge and experience of both representatives of research institutes and other scientific establishments, the MCRI Chairman explained. – The Main Council of Research Institutes wants to support the further development of science in Poland, contribute to increasing our country’s competitive edge in the field of scientific research globally, and emphasize the appropriate use of research potential for the benefit of society, Prof. Henryk Skarżyński observed.
“By a decision of the Minister of Education and Science, gold and silver “Sapientia et Veritas Merit for Polish Science” medals were awarded for special contributions to higher education and science, including outstanding achievements in scientific, educational, and organizational activities.” Commemorative statuettes from the Minister of Education and Science were awarded to representatives of institutes with A and A+ categories and to the organizers of the “Science for Society” Congress.
Three-day encounter with science included exhibitors representing almost 60 scientific and research institutes and educational centers. Moreover, there were seven expert panels, nearly 50 lectures, exhibitions, presentations of the achievements and implementations of the scientific institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences, research institutes, the Łukasiewicz Network, and the “Copernicus” Science Center, free tests, advice and consultations, lots of smart and exciting games for the youngest explorers.
The “Science for Society” Congress was held under the honorary patronage of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Minister of Education and Science Przemysław Czarnek.