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International Scientific Advisory Board commends MU improvements

Members learned about developments at the university and the steps taken to address the recommendations they gave.

The meeting started at Villa Tugendhat. (from left) Members of the board Thomas Henzinger and Josef Jiřičný, vicerector MU Petr Dvořák, members of the board Peter Williamson a Marie-Janine Calic, secretary of the board Mary O'Connell, bursar Marta Valešová a rector Mikuláš Bek.

The International Scientific Advisory Board, which was established last year, recently held a meeting in Brno. At the meeting, members learned about developments at the university over the past year and the steps taken to address the recommendations they gave the university last year.

The board consists of four internationally renowned experts: Professor Josef Jiřičný from the University of Zurich, Professor Peter Williamson from the University of Cambridge, Professor Thomas A. Henzinger from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, and Professor Marie-Janine Calic from the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich. Internally, the Board is supported by Mary O’Connel, a molecular biologist who joined Muni in 2014 as part of the ERA Chair programme.

During the initial meeting at the famous functionalist Villa Tugendhat, Rector Mikuláš Bek drew attention to the improved international rating of the university and the higher scores in two respected rankings by the Times Higher Education magazine and Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings. The vice-rector for research, Petr Dvořák, also underlined a very positive development with regard to the position in the Nature Index, which tracks the global impact of publications in the most influential journals. Nature Index does not track social sciences and humanities but paints a true picture of the rest of the university.

Dvořák also summed up the step that the university had taken in reaction to the initial board recommendations. The biggest revisions were made in research funding from the internal Grant Agency of Masaryk University and especially in creating a new prestigious grant called the Muni Award. This grant is designed for academics from abroad and there are currently ten applications pending for the grant from top researchers.

As Dvořák noted, the insights of the MU International Scientific Advisory Board played a major role in drafting the application for institutional accreditation, which has been submitted in recent days.

Meeting at Rector´s office. Vicerector Michal Bulant introducing institutional accreditation.

At this year’s meeting, members of the International Scientific Advisory Board discussed internal evaluations and the allocation of finances within the university, which is related to the ongoing changes in research evaluation in the Czech Republic. Other topics included increasing the mobility of postdocs, implementing high standards for PhD studies including the admission procedure, and making the university generally more attractive to top academics from abroad.

In addition, the board took part in a lively discussion with the vice-deans for research and doctoral studies. This meeting addressed the various pitfalls and intricacies of implementing the board’s recommendations and produced many new ideas for future changes.

Opening meeting of the board at Villa Tugendhat.

Speaking immediately after the meeting, the board chair, Professor Jiřičný, emphasized that the board members were delighted with the university’s willingness and drive for changes. “We were pleasantly surprised to see that many shared things had changed over the past year and that the attitude of the individual faculties to our recommendations is very welcoming and constructive while change is happening at all levels.