Saturday, 28 December 2019

Curricular Reform, Admission to CERN Major Events in Croatia's Education in 2019

ZAGREB, December 28, 2019 - The frontal introduction of the curriculum reform in primary and secondary schools, a record-long strike of teachers in the first semester of 2019-2020 school year, and admission of Croatia as an associate member of CERN have been some of the major events marking Croatia's education and science in the outgoing year.

Also, in 2019, the University of Zagreb marked its 350th anniversary, and six Croatian scientists at the Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) completed the first Croatian project within the European Research Council (ERC), while Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences professors and researchers were given funding from the ERC, for their project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries, which was thus the first Croatian humanities projects to be funded by the ERC through the Horizon 2020 programme.

The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) entered 2019 with a new leadership: academician Velimir Neiderhart succeeded academician Zvonko Kusić at the helm of this institution after Kusić's two terms as the HAZU president. Neiderhart's associates are: Dario Vretenar as the HAZU secretary-general and two vice-presidents Davor Miličević and Frano Paro.

In January 2019, new curricula were adopted to replace programmes introduced in Croatian schools 25 years ago.

As of September 2019, new curricula are being implemented in first and fifth grade of primary schools, in seventh grade for subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics and in first grade in upper secondary schools as well as in four-year vocational schools in general education subjects: Croatian, Math, Foreign Languages (German and English). Thus, as many as 150,000 pupils in are covered by the new curricula.

The strike of primary and secondary school teachers, launched over a demand for an increase in job complexity indices, lasted from October 10 to December 2, and students lost a total of 16 days of classes during the action. At the beginning of the industrial action, rotating strikes were conducted across counties, and later, a general strike was launched. The industrial action escalated in a protest rally on 25 November.

On 2 December, the government and striking teachers reached agreement on an increase of the job complexity indices of 3% as of December 1, an additional 1% as of June 1 next year and a further 2% as of January 1, 2021. The unions had demanded a pay rise through an increase of the job complexity indices of 6.11% to close the pay gap with other public-sector employees.

On 28 February, Croatia became an associate member of the world's biggest research centre, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), at a ceremony in Zagreb at which an agreement was signed awarding Croatia the status of an associate member. The agreement was signed by CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti and Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak.

Gianotti recalled that CERN was not only the leading world research centre for particle physics but was also dedicated to development of new technologies, education and global peace-loving scientific cooperation. She noted that numerous Croatian researchers had worked and still worked at CERN and that they deserved credit for successful cooperation.

Minister Divjak spoke of some of the possibilities that would open up for Croatia with its associate membership of CERN, including access for Croatian researchers to huge databases and the exchange of knowledge, researchers and ideas.

CERN also provides an opportunity for Croatian high-tech companies to participate in tenders worth more than two billion euros annually - from construction of parts for accelerators and similar laboratory equipment to development of robotics and solutions for the analysis of huge quantities of data and artificial intelligence, Divjak said.

Attending the ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he believed that Croatia would become a full member of CERN in a few years' time. He noted that the national economy would benefit from the country's accession to CERN. Plenković recalled that in the past two years government investment in science had increased by 29%, including money from EU funds.

The first "Science Oscar"’ was brought to the RBI by scientist Ana Smith who had been awarded a 1.5 million euro worth ERC Starting Grant for her project "MembranesAct – Biological membranes in action: A unified approach to complexation, scaffolding and active transport", and that was one of just 287 proposals selected for funding out of a record 3,329 submissions six years ago.

The five-year research project, conducted by the researcher Smith and a few young scientists, concerned membranes in living cells – structures which act at the interface of biology, material science and physics. Due to the complexity of membranes and the number of processes occurring simultaneously in their vicinity, the mechanisms driving and controlling protein transport and complexation are not well understood, though are believed to have a biophysical foundation, according to the explanation of the project which was completed in 2019.

In mid-December, Zagreb's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stated that the project about architectural culture of the eastern Adriatic between the 15th and 18th centuries was the first Croatian humanities projects to receive funding from the ERC. The project, led by Jasenka Gudelj of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of the 78 projects selected among 674 that were submitted in the field of social sciences and humanities. The projects are financed by the ERC from a €600 million budget through the Horizon 2020 programme.

"We expect that the results of five years of work will help in safeguarding and evaluating the early medieval architectural heritage of the Adriatic. We are excited about this success and the possibilities that are opening up for us," Gudelj said. The research team includes Ana Marinković and Neven Jovanovic from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Zagreb, Laris Borić from the University of Zadar and five young researchers. They will be working with the Archaeological Museum of Istria in Pula, the Croatian Museum of Architecture, the National and University Library, and other Croatian and foreign institutions.

More news about education in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Grant Agreements Worth 126 Million Kuna Signed to Promote Excellence in Science

ZAGREB, December 20, 2019 - Grant agreements valued at 126 million kuna intended to promote excellence in science were signed in Zagreb on Friday between state institutions and 24 faculties and institutes.

Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak said that there had never been so many opportunities in Croatia for investment in science and that the intention was that the best be given a chance.

Speaking about current projects, Divjak underlined that these were not only projects with a good scientific basis but with great applicability so that citizens could benefit from science.

State-Secretary at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds Spomenka Đurić said that after large infrastructure projects were funded, now applied research has not been forgotten.

The Science and Education Ministry conducted the selection process for these grants and the projects were assessed by independent experts.

The projects included those relating to water purification and obtaining energy from composite material by using solar radiation, conducted by the Faculty of Chemical Engineering in Zagreb, digitisation and advancing nutritive care for chronically ill patients in the Split University Hospital, and "A new start for old Croatian vine types" conducted by the Zagreb Faculty of Agronomy.

Among the grant beneficiaries are the Faculties of Geodesy, Geotechnology, Food-Biotechnology, Nature Studies and Mathematics, Forestry and Textile Technology in Zagreb, the Faculty of Construction, Architecture and Geodesy in Split and the Faculties of Electrical Engineering, IT and Computing, Construction, Agriculture and Food Technology in Osijek.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

MIT to Organise Bootcamp Programme in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a private American research university, is coming to Croatia where next spring it will organise education for about 100 applicants about innovation and entrepreneurship, the Jutarnji List daily reported on Thursday.

Presenting its programme for Croatia, called called Bootcamp, MIT says on its website that "with a rising digital sector and a plethora of ‘smart’ companies, Croatia is poised to become a new innovation playground for large and small economies alike."

"In January 2020, Croatia will take the presidency of the European Union for the following six months. During this time, addressing upskilling, reskilling, digital entrepreneurship, innovation, and knowledge transfer will be a focal point of Croatian officials. Emphasis on the global competitiveness of individuals and companies, particularly in the ICT and digital sector, is a driving force behind the Croatian start-up ecosystem and at the heart of the intersection of business, education, and creative talents," says this university, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Throughout the program, the participants "will learn and practice a variety of new skills related to entrepreneurship and innovation."

They will learn directly from MIT instructors, coaches, and guest speakers as well as through their experience in project teams.

The Croatian partner in this programme is the Zagreb-based Algebra.

MIT describes Algebra as "the largest private education institution in Croatia, enrolling more than 15,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, MBA programs, adult education, lifelong learning, junior programs, and professional certification courses."

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Foreign Minister Meets with Members of European Academies' Science Advisory Council

ZAGREB, November 16, 2019) - The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, addressed a meeting of the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) in Zagreb on Friday, presenting the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

Croatia is making thorough preparations for the presidency, Radman said, adding that the presidency implies a mediating role and the art of compromising among the member states. He noted that Croatia was taking over the EU presidency after only six years of membership.

"The unity of the European Union members in understanding that we need one another to face the challenges of today is one of the distinctive strengths of the European Union," Radman said, according to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.

The meeting, hosted by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, focused on support for research projects in the EU, especially financial support, harmonising the member states' policies on migration, and the brain drain within the EU, from eastern to western member states.

The EASAC brings together members of the science academies of the EU member states, Switzerland and Norway to discuss current and future EU policies, notably those concerning sciences and arts.

The Council is currently chaired by Thierry Courvoisier of Switzerland. The issue it is now primarily preoccupied with is sustainable development and the future of the planet, with the focus on preserving healthy soil and food, reducing exhaust emissions and alleviating the consequences of climate imbalance.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Science and Higher Education Sectors to Strike on Thursday

ZAGREB, October 21, 2019 - After conciliation between the union in science and higher education and the Croatian government failed on Monday, the union announced a day-long strike at universities faculties for Thursday.

Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said after the meeting on Monday morning that the government found the union's demands unacceptable, while unionist Igor Radeka criticised the government for "offering virtually nothing."

Last week, unionist Vilim Ribić said that the union in science and higher education would hold a strike on October 24 demanding a wage increase for workers receiving the lowest wages in that sector in an effort to remove the pay gap between employees in the sector compared to those working in the civil service.

Lecturers and non-teaching staff, about 700 of them, will strike, union leader Vilim Ribić told a press conference last week calling on all research and teaching staff to join the strike as a sign of solidarity.

The strike will be repeated once a week until the fulfilment of the union's demands, Radeka said today.

On Monday, elementary and primary school teachers went on a day-long nationwide strike.

More news about various strikes taking place can be found in the Business section.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Centre Dedicated to Scientist Andrija Mohorovičić Opened in Volosko

ZAGREB, October 20, 2019 - A centre dedicated to the life and work of the great Croatian scientist Andrija Mohorovičić was opened in his birthplace Volosko.

The centre is to serve as a place for the interaction of research and cultural and tourism organisations and associations, visited by children, young people, tourists and passers-by, its purpose being to acquaint visitors with historical facts about Mohorovičić's birthplace.

Rajka Šepić-Jurdana of the University of Rijeka's Physics Department said that this was the first stage of a project designed to present Mohorovičić's achievements in the field of meteorology, seismography and geophysics, while the second stage would include the construction and equipment of rooms for an interactive study of phenomena studied by Mohorovičić.

Mohorovičić, who was born in Volosko in 1857 and died in Zagreb in 1936, was a Croatian geophysicist as well as a prominent researcher in the fields of meteorology and seismology.

After studying mathematics and physics in Prague, he worked as a high school teacher in Zagreb and Osijek and later at the Maritime School in Bakar, where he taught meteorology and in 1887 established a weather station.

Since 1892 he headed the meteorological observatory in Zagreb, which ran all weather stations in the then Croatian Banovina.

He earned his PhD degree in Zagreb in 1893 and became a member of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (JAZU) in 1898 while in 1910 he became an associate professor of geophysics and astronomy.

Mohorovičić's most important discovery is the boundary between the Earth's crust and mantle - a boundary subsequently named the Mohorovičić discontinuity.

He was the first to establish the accurate time service in the region. A Moon crater and an asteroid were named after him and the Geophysics Institute of the Zagreb Faculty of Science and a secondary modern school in Rijeka bear his name.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Regional Conference on Cooperation in Space Technologies Held in Zagreb

ZAGREB, October 7, 2019 - Space research, aeronautics and space technologies are not the domain of only big countries and companies as small countries can actively participate as well, participants and guests in the first regional conference on cooperation in space sciences and technologies said in Zagreb earlier this week.

The event was hosted by the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) and organised by the Adriatic Aerospace Association, in cooperation with the IRB and the University of Zadar, under the auspices of the Croatian Economy Ministry.

Mario Antonić, the state secretary at the ministry, said that without innovation and research there was no development and that Croatia wanted to step up those processes in order to catch up with European and global trends. In doing so, we wish to learn from other countries such as Israel, he added.

Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor said his country was willing to share its experience. Israel, although a small country and despite a hostile environment, looks into space and has ten satellites there now, he added.

Failures must not discourage us, we must learn from them and keep working, Mor said commenting on the failed landing of Israel's Baresheet spacecraft on the Moon, which crashed on the surface last April due to technical malfunctions.

Space research is important for the future of every country, including Croatia but, unfortunately, we cannot say that Croatia participates in it, said Tome Antičić, state secretary at the Science and Education Ministry. He added, however, that Croatia was trying to change that and was looking up to countries such as Israel.

IRB director David Matthew Smith said that many thought that space research was reserved only for big countries, but that it was not so. He added that many small companies in Croatia worked on some product that was important for space technologies.

Heinz Stoewer, one of the founders of the European Space Agency, said small countries could build small satellites and rockets as the technology was familiar and worked-out.

The president of the Adriatic Aerospace Association, Slobodan Danko Bosanac, said the aim of the conference was to encourage and strengthen regional cooperation in the research and development of space technologies, as well as establish contacts so that one could plan cooperation in space technologies, rocket power and rocket engineering.

Montenegrin Science Minister Sanja Damjanović presented a project which could help stop and reverse the brain drain problem in South East Europe.

The SEEIIST (Heavy Ions in South East Europe) project combines science and biomedicine, and envisages the construction of a scientific institute in one of the region's countries which would apply hadron therapy for cancer, i.e. treatment via protons and heavy ions, one of the most modern treatment methods for certain types of cancer.

There are 12 such centres in the world, including four in Europe, but none in South East Europe, so Damjanovic said its construction would help in the treatment of patients with a method that, for some cancers, had an almost 90% success rate.

Damjanovic said the countries in South East Europe needed financial assistance in this because the project was worth €200 million, adding that the goal of the SEEIIST was to build such a centre in the region by 2028.

She said Croatia had been among the first countries to support the project and that a Declaration of Intent was signed at CERN in October 2017. Ten ministers were there, including Croatian Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak. The declaration was signed by eight ministers, while Croatia agreed "ad referendum" and Greece agreed to observer status.

Six ministers signed a memorandum on the project in Poland last July. Damjanović said Slovenia would most likely sign it as well and that the signatories would be very glad if Croatia did too.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Postponing Retirement in Science Could Hamper Hiring of Young Scientists

ZAGREB, September 30, 2019 - Representatives of the government and unions on Monday resumed negotiations on extending years of service until the age of 68 and it was said that, without clear criteria, this could cause a disaster in science and higher education due to the complicated hiring and promotion of young scientists, which would result in emigration.

"Should the working life be extended, over the next three years there would be no promotions of young people and their employment in science and higher education. Given the EU's open borders, excellent young scientists will leave the country," the state secretary at the science ministry, Tome Antičić, said after a meeting on changes to labour and pension laws aimed at enabling people to work until 68.

Antičić said many scientists were interested in working until 68 but added that this could have unforeseen consequences because wage amounts and the wage index were fixed.

If the retirement age is set at 68 without some criteria, it will be a disaster, he said, adding that a request would be made in the negotiations for employers to set criteria for working until 68.

Unionist Krešimir Sever said the unions stated today their position that it was necessary to compensate the more than 5,000 workers who were retired early this year.

The unions also request the establishment of a fund for the compensation of workers who were retired early and who receive reduced pensions. "The employer who got rid of them, because they consider them too old, would make payments into some kind of fund so that those people may receive full pensions," said Sever.

Employers have always been against this, yet this year they have continued to get rid of older workers who could still work, he added.

After meeting unions, government representatives held a separate meeting with representatives of employers to discuss changes to labour and pension laws.

More science news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Zagreb's Faculty of Electrical Engineering Sets up First Artificial Intelligence Centre in Croatia

ZAGREB, September 25, 2019 - The Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER) of the University of Zagreb on Wednesday presented its project of establishing the first artificial intelligence centre in Croatia as the pivotal institution to coordinate activities in the field of AI development.

The faculty's dean, Gordan Gledec, said that FER wanted to continue playing a pioneering role in promotion and development of advanced and safe artificial intelligence complying with ethical norms and serving for the benefit of citizens of Croatia and the world.

The centre will share knowledge and provide support to all who find AI-related topics to be important, in line with recommendations on the development and application of artificial intelligence adopted earlier this year by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU).

Gledec said that companies that are involved in the development of new products based on AI must actively invest in research and development.

One of the missions of the centre is to educate the general public about possibilities of positive application of AI.

The faculty has already developed successful projects such as cyber fraud protection systems, enhanced safety and security in the tram transportation system or increased potato cultivation productivity.

More news about science in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Procedure of Certification of Nikola Tesla Network Launched

ZAGREB, July 10, 2019 - Three ministries, local tourism boards, associations, three counties and dozens of towns on Tuesday signed a cooperation charter with the Nikola Tesla Memorial Centre in the village of Smiljan near Gospić, where Tesla was born 163 years ago, thus launching the procedure of certification of the Nikola Tesla Network project at the Council of Europe Institute for Cultural Routes.

The certification will make it possible for destinations in Croatia that are connected with Tesla to become part of the European network of cultural routes.

Tourism Ministry State Secretary Frano Matušić said today that a task force would be set up in the town of Skradin on Thursday to be in charge of the further process of the certification.

Matušić told Hina that the U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst had pledged support in this project.

He also hopes that the certificate to this effect would be issued next May, underscoring that this would accentuate the fact that Nikola Tesla is a Croatian brand.

On July 10, Tesla's birthday, representatives of the Nikola Tesla – Genius for the Future association, the Ruđer Bošković Institute and the City of Zagreb will lay flowers at the monument to Tesla, and the annual Nikola Tesla – Genius for the Future awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Hotel Esplanade.

On Thursday, July 11, a conference called "Tesla in Zagreb" will be held at the Zagreb Chamber of Commerce, presenting successful cultural, scientific, educational and tourism-related projects in the country and the region that were inspired by Nikola Tesla.

Tesla was born in Smiljan, a village in the mountainous region of Lika in Croatia, on 10 July 1856 and died in New York on 7 January 1943. Tesla was one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

More Nikola Tesla news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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