Czech science 'grinding to a halt', says deputy PM

December 5, 2003

Czech scientific development is stagnating, hindered by an ageing research population, lack of funding and poor career prospects, according to a government report.

Peter Mares, Czech deputy prime minister responsible for science, research and human resources, said progress had practically ground to a halt over the past four years.

Last year, the Czechs spent 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product on research and development, compared with the European Union average of 1.93 per cent.

As a proportion of the workforce, the number of scientists is almost half that of the EU average, at 2.9 per 1,000. In the US, more than nine out of every thousand workers was engaged in research.

Most Czech teams are headed by scientists aged between 56 and 60, and the report found that just five projects were run by men or women under 25.

"The evidence shows that our research base is growing older, with the numbers at the most productive age for research far fewer than in other countries," Marek Blazek, one of the report's authors, said.

He added that low salaries and poor public perception of a career in research were to blame for the lack of younger recruits.

Mr Mares is an advocate of student tuition fees as a way of increasing funding for the sector.

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