A growing opportunity for Serbian scientists as well as companies to participate in leading scientific projects opens up as Serbia becomes an associate member of CERN.
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 17/01/12
The CERN particle research centre near Geneva. [Reuters]
Serbia's scientific community received a boost this month as the country became an associate member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Some 30 Serbian scientists are already working at the world's largest particle physics laboratory located close to Geneva, Switzerland.
With its 20-member states, some 2,400 employees and around 10,000 guest scientists who represent over 600 universities from around the world, associate member status affords Serbian scientists the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge in a collaborative international setting.
Serbian Education and Science Minister Zarko Obradovic told SETimes that associate membership in CERN also means greater possibilities for scientists and the economy of Serbia.
"We will determine which projects are part of the development of CERN in the coming years and will insist on Serbian companies taking part in them and applying for those projects in public competitions," Obradovic said, adding that it now remains to be seen how capable the Serbian economy is to answer the demands and standards CERN will impose.
Obradovic said he believes Serbia's co-operation with CERN will again show the value of Serbian scientists. "Many Serbian scientists are working on projects worldwide and no one has so far complained about their knowledge and competence," Obradovic said.
"We have investment in science thanks to the loans we have secured and that is the good side, while the bad side is the budget structure. We have secured funds for the procurement of equipment and science and technology parks, but we also have to secure money for the research the institutes and research parks are to conduct," he added.
One example of Serbia's scientific strength is the Center for Applied Physics, where many of the Serbian scientists now working at CERN developed their skills and expertise. Researcher Aleksandar Balaz told SETimes that membership in the organization is very important for Serbian physicists, as well as for science and the state as a whole.
"It is an indicator that, even though the investment is insufficient, scientists enjoy support from the state. Membership in CERN is an incentive for all physicists in Serbia, as well as for other branches of science, which have to fight for their own place," Balaz said.
Balaz added that the entire state could benefit from the participation of companies in tenders for equipping CERN, which will expand possibilities on the whole European market.
Balaz also said the state investment in science is small and that it will be a while before Serbia goes from the current 0.65% of GNP to the European average of 1.5% investment in science.
Scientists, he says, should look for additional sources of financing. "We from the Institute of Physics have won our position in Europe, we are taking part in a myriad of projects and are already getting calls for co-operation with scientific institutions abroad," Balaz said.
Apart from involvement in international projects, opportunity should also be sought in better co-operation between Serbian scientific institutions and industry since the co-operation is underdeveloped at present.
Admission to associate membership is a preliminary step towards full membership in this research centre. The decision on Serbia's final membership in CERN will be made within five years.