The objective of the EXCELES programme (the ‘Programme for the Support of Excellent Research in Priority Areas of Public Interest in the Health Sector’) is to learn from the unprecedented challenges brought about by the spread of Covid-19 and develop tools to respond to similar systemic threats in the future. Masaryk University will receive more than one-fifth of the programme’s CZK 5 billion endowment, with over CZK 560 million of that amount earmarked for the creation of the National Institute for Research on the Socio-Economic Impact of Diseases and Systemic Risks (SYRI).
Funding from the EXCELES programme will also support the establishment of the National Institute of Virology and Bacteriology, the National Institute for Cancer Research, the National Institute for Neurological Research, and the National Institute for Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease Research. Masaryk University is one of only two organisations (alongside Charles University) to have their investigator in each of these newly formed institutions, which gives MU a position of significant influence and an active role in finding and developing solutions to societal challenges at the national level. These institutions will be tasked with the creation of tools for mounting an effective response, building the ability to generate data and recommendations for policy decision-makers and initiating reforms in both health and social sciences research.
“This is a great achievement for Masaryk University and a further confirmation of the fact that our campus hosts top scientists who are involved in excellent research with applications in all areas of human life. It is both a commitment and a great responsibility to participate in shaping the future of our society,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of Masaryk University, when summarising the results of almost two years of preparations and talks with potential partners from among top research organisations of other universities and institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
“The talks were not easy, but we managed to negotiate cooperation with Charles University and other research institutions and clarify our roles within individual projects. I see this as a demonstration of our ability to ‘defragment’ the research sector in the Czech Republic and to concentrate the best people in teams addressing key challenges,” said David Póč from the Office of the Vice-Rector for Development, Legal & Information Technologies. Mr Póč attended many of the meetings himself in his role as director of the MU 2021+ strategic development project, which defines the university’s scientific research strategy.
Unsurprisingly, Masaryk University is the most interested in the National Institute for Research on the Socio-Economic Impact of Diseases and Systemic Risks (known under its Czech abbreviation SYRI), with Klára Šeďová from the MU Faculty of Arts serving as its scientific director. SYRI will provide a framework for a consortium of Masaryk University, Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences, whose collaboration will generate new excellent scientific knowledge with applications in the field of public administration and public communication, especially in areas concerning health, healthcare and lifestyles. As such, SYRI will actively and positively influence the national economic policy and the labour market and contribute to tackling the growing poverty rate.
“Covid-19 has shown us that unexpected events such as a pandemic place serious demands on societal defence mechanisms and require effective public policy responses. Medical research alone is not enough to manage these risks. Social scientists need to step in and contribute their expertise, for example in decision-making concerning how to effectively disseminate credible information about health risks and how to protect against them, how to ensure good-quality education when schools need to close, and how to prevent different groups of people from falling into poverty. SYRI is made up of nine interlinked scientific areas; three of them will be directly managed by researchers from Masaryk University and MU researchers will also be represented in the others,” said Klára Šeďová.