Monday, 6 December 2021

EU Marine Strategy: Split Scientists Publish Work for Measure Implementation

December the 6th, 2021 - Split scientists have published an important piece of work for the EU Marine Stragedy, placing Croatian scientists at the forefront once again.

As Morski writes, the Republic of Croatia, as a member state of the European Union, is obliged to respect the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC), which requires effective action in maintaining a good marine environment. Split scientists have stepped forward to do precisely that.

Each EU country, in accordance with the aforementioned directive, is currently developing a programme of measures that should maintain the state of the environment at a quality level and correct what was once poor.

In order for these proposed measures to really have an effect, it was necessary to create a methodology to test their effectiveness. That is why Split scientists from the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, in cooperation with their colleagues from Europe, within the MEDCIS and MEDREGION projects, have been working hard for many years. The result of the work has just been published in the prestigious magazine "Marine policy".

Through this work, European Union-wide executive authorities have multiple new tools at their disposal to develop more meaningful and effective measures to preserve the marine environment. When asked how the Institute's cooperation with other large institutions in Europe came about, the senior expert associate of the Split Institute, Miso Pavicic, provided an answer:

''The Institute has been working for years on the implementation of the Marine Strategy in cooperation with the competent ministry. IFRS is an EU directive that member states need to implement. The Institute performs the monitoring of the marine environment, the assessment of the state of the environment and participates in the development of programmes of measures.

A consortium of Mediterranean-level partners has been formed and we have applied for a call for projects from the European Commission, DG Environment. First it was the MEDCIS project, then came MEDREGION. These are projects on the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy. This paper published in the magazine "Marine policy" is the result of part of the activities of these two projects,'' explained Pavicic.

Who will benefit from all the results of the work of these Split scientists?

''Primarily EU-level decision-makers, as well as all interested experts assessing the progress and potential of individual action programmes at both the national and subregional level. This method can contribute to more coordinated measures between EU member states and as such be more effective in protecting the marine environment,'' stated this scientist from the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

The programme of measures is a document of the EU Marine Strategy that member states need to adopt if the state of the environment is bad. In that case, these measures should be applied in order to achieve a good state of the environment.

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Thursday, 21 October 2021

Beroš: Some Scientific Council Members Do Harm But Have Right to Their Opinion

ZAGREB, 21 Oct 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš on Thursday criticized comments by a member of the government's Scientific Council, Gordan Lauc, related to vaccination, saying that Council members should send a clear message and be aware that their opinions could be harmful.

Beroš added, however, that Lauc has the right to his own opinion.

"It is bad when everyone has the same opinion. That would show that we made a mistake somewhere. But I am critical of what is made public. I appeal for that to not be the case and that everyone who participates in the Scientific Council be aware that by presenting their opinion on social networks they could be doing harm," Beroš told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

He underscored that that is why he personally appealed to members of the Council to send clear messages and not to confuse citizens.

Commenting on Lauc's post on Facebook that "the consensus of the Scientific Council is that vaccines are a poor protection against infection," Beroš said that everyone has the right to their own opinion but the common stance after the Council's meetings, which is a voluntary advisory body for the government, is made by a government representative.

Asked if Lauc would be ousted from the Council, Beroš said that Lauc is responsible for his own opinions but that he believes "individuals will realize that expressing their opinions is damaging and that that will change."

First step in reform is to combine public procurement

Beroš also spoke about the proposed reform of the health system which the ministry has sent to interested institutions for their ideas and proposals.

He announced that as part of the reform, regardless of amendments to the law on healthcare, the first step will be to combine public procurement in health institutions.

"A precondition to combine public procurement is their ownership structure because the ministry and state do not have the option to impose any obligation on county hospitals to join in combined public procurement. Combined public procurement is the first step we will deal with and certain steps have already been taken in that regard," he said, adding that the results would quickly be visible.

"Whether it will be necessary to centralize county institutions or not is still a matter of dispute. We will see what the final draft decision will be after consultations," he said.

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Thursday, 30 September 2021

New Law On Croatian Science Foundation

ZAGREB, 30 Sept 2021 - The government on Thursday sent a bill on the Croatian Science Foundation into the parliamentary procedure, proposing that the Foundation, which currently has the status of a non-profit organization, acquire the status of a state budget user.

The Foundation was established in 2001, and the new bill was sent to the parliament since the existing legislation is outdated and does not regulate the system for funding science in a way that would be in line with all demands of the current Croatian and European research area.

"The new bill is a key point for the implementation of reforms planned in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO), with the aim of raising Croatia's research and innovation activities and potential," Science and Education Minister Radovan Fuchs said.

In order to boost the efficiency and functionality of investments in science projects and enable the implementation of programs planned within the NPOO, he said, it was proposed that the exact names of programs be deleted.

"In this regard, and in order to make the programs easier to adapt to the framework of financing research, development and innovation, it has been proposed that the types of programs be determined by the Foundation's general acts," the minister explained.

The new bill also regulates issues that are not currently regulated, for example, that the Ministry of Science and Education be in charge of the founder's rights and obligations, as well as the supervision over the legality of the Foundation's work and actions.

In order to improve the quality and transparency of financing science projects and programs, it has been proposed that a new expert body of the Foundation is established, a complaints commission and that the possibility of objection is defined, which has not been possible until now. Also, the principles of the work of the Foundation have been clearly defined, and the definition of the Foundation's users has been changed.

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Sunday, 26 September 2021

Scientists Call for Concrete Action Plan to Protect Adriatic

ZAGREB, 26 Sept, 2021 - A group of Croatian scientists has issued a public letter underlining the importance of adopting an agenda or a specific action plan for the protection of the Adriatic Sea, vital for the sustainable development of the Croatian society, and their appeal was forwarded by the Eko Kvarner NGO on Sunday. 

The scientists, who in September attended a conference on the Adriatic Sea eco-system on the island of Krk, say in their appeal to the prime minister, the parliament speaker and the public that the research of the Adriatic had been conducted for years but that there was a lack of systematic interdisciplinary research to account for "galloping changes."

They say that the changes are irreversible and that the rise of the sea temperature also causes a rise in the sea level and sea salinity, as well as increased sea stratification, and storm tides.

They warn about a growing number of alien species in the Adriatic, of which many are invasive and even poisonous, as well as about the loss of biodiversity.

Tourism-related activities, along with climate change, account for most of the pressure on the Adriatic, the scientists say, stressing that with waste water and intensive farming, more food and various harmful substances end up in the sea, accumulating in sea organisms through food chains.

"On top of that, plastic and other waste is becoming an increasingly big problem, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the quality of life in the sea and human health," they warn, pointing also to the problem of uncontrolled construction in the coastal areas, which results in the loss of the coastal seabed necessary for the propagation of sea organisms.

The scientists consider more active protection of the Adriatic, a better understanding of how its eco-system functions, and the adoption of regulations aimed at its protection as the solution for more sustainable development.

They propose the establishment of an advisory task force comprising scientists to participate in defining the agenda on measures of protection and underline the importance of developing IT technologies to monitor changes in the marine environment and involving citizens in monitoring those changes.

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Thursday, 8 July 2021

Ruđer Bošković Institute Scientists: New Findings Regarding Isomers in Stereochemistry

July 8, 2021 - Ruđer Bošković Institute scientists made progress in stereochemistry that focuses on describing the order of atoms in three-dimensional space and compounds of equal molecular formulas.

While Ivo Andrić's Nobel Prize in literature is debatable whether it serves the national pride of Croatia, Serbia, or Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two Nobel prizes that are unquestionably for Croatians to brag about come from chemistry.

Croatian chemist Vladimir Prelog won the Nobel Prize in 1975 for his work in organic stereochemistry.

As the Ruđer Bošković Institute reported this week, Ph.D. candidate Natalija Pantalon Juraj and dr. Srećko Kirin provided new descriptions of isomers (focused on metal complexes), and their work is published in a prestigious Coordination Chemistry Reviews [IF2020: 22.3] journal, titled „Inorganic stereochemistry: Geometric isomerism in bis-tridentate ligand complexes“.

„The basis of the research was the analysis of structure from crystallographic database“, added IRB.

IRB explained in a press release that stereochemistry is focused on describing the order of atoms in three-dimensional space and compounds of equal molecular formulas, but that differ in the spatial order of atom placements are called isomers.

Prelog took an interest in organic stereochemistry (organic, being interested in compounds with carbon), and while organic stereochemistry has good ways of synthesizing the preferred isomers, the same isn't the case for inorganic (non-carbon compounds) chemistry.

While it is unclear if this work will be awarded and recognized among the international scientific community as much as Prelog's contribution, Pantalon Juraj and Kirin made some progress in advancing inorganic stereochemistry.

„Analysis of data presented in this paper shows trends in coordination properties of various ligands (ligand being an ion or molecule 'functional group' that binds to a central atom to form a coordination complex), thus answering the question of which ligand to choose and design a system to get a wanted isomer“, says IRB regarding the relevance of the research.

The detailed analysis also revealed stereochemical preferences that vary on various factors, and these findings are important for developing new functional coordinating complexes and also new selective catalizators to speed up the reactions.

This research was funded thanks to the Croatian Science Foundation as part of the project „Minimal Artificial Ensims“ (IP-2014-09-1461 and DOK-2015-10-2072), and "CAT Pharma" (KK.01.1.1.04.0013).

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Thursday, 17 June 2021

Croatian Scientists Answer Big Question in Cell Biology

June 1, 2021 - Croatian Scientists from one of the most prominent scientific institutse in Croatia, the Ruđer Bošković Insitute (IRB), answered a big question in cell biology regarding the spindle and cell division that has puzzled scientists for decades.

Croatian scientists from the Ruđer Bošković Science Institute (IRB), more precisely, dr. Kruno Vukušić, Ph.D. students Ivana Ponjavić, Patrik Risteski, and Renata Buđa, lead by professor Iva Tolić, researched and have now answered one of the key questions in cell biology.

When it comes to this field of biology specialised in observing and researching cells that make organisms, the spindle is a structure of eukaryotic cells that form during cell division, which is crucial for organisms (including humans, of course) for growth, repair, and reproduction. The spindle is in charge of the distribution of genetic material, but the exact process and molecular mechanisms of that task has baffled scientists for decades.

The aforementioned IRB scientists had their paper published in a prestigious scientific journal, Developmental Cell: Microtubule-sliding modules based on kinesins EG5 and PRC1-dependent KIF4A drive human spindle elongation. The paper described a precise molecular mechanism of molecular microtubule sliding.

''Given that this is one of the key steps in cell division that happens in almost every organism, a molecular mechanism that expands the spindle was the object of interest of many pieces of research. Even though the last 20 years has seen significant progress in understanding these molecular mechanisms, the identity of the protein needed to expand the spindle remained unknown. The importance of the spindle in human cells is apparent, in the fact that besides being the key trigger of moving chromosomes, it encourages the correct segregation of those chromosomes which, if defected, correlate with cancer,'' they said from the IRB in a press release.

This IRB research showed that the proteins KIF11 and KIF4A are the key proteins that stop the expansion of the spindle. This breakthrough was achieved by ''silencing'' several of the many proteins that participate in the process since the previous methods of silencing proteins one by one didn't offer any new knowledge in understanding this process.

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Risteski, Ponjavić, Vukušić and Tolić © Ruđer Bošković Institute

''We hope that the results of this paper will encourage more new research on the role of expanding the spindle in the final stages of cell division. The results we presented are the start of explaining the control mechanisms of this protein, the work of which is under the strict control of many other factors within the cell itself. In addition, the principle of common work we described in this paper could help scientists in determining molecular mechanisms in other processes that are important in cells,'' elaborated the research leader, professor Iva Tolić.

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Saturday, 15 May 2021

Croatian Teenagers Win Gold and Silver Medals at European Olympiad of Experimental Science

May 15, 2021 – Croatian students in the category of under 17 years of age, participated in the European Olympiad of Experimental Science. Not only that, but they returned as winners.

Young Croatian competitors at the European Olympiad of Experimental Science did not disappoint. Displaying great skill in handling experiments, data compiling, and problem-solving, Croatian teams managed to win gold and silver medals.

Tportal reports this year's competition ran from May 9th to May 14th. The host city this year was going to be the Hungarian city of Szeged. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic forced the organisers to change the format of the competition. With travelling restrictions in place, Croatian participants worked on their experimental competition tasks in Zagreb. They used the facilities of the Faculty of Science, a part of Zagreb University.

The European Olympiad of Experimental Science is an annual competition by the EOES association. This is a non-profit association for the promotion of science education in high school students in the European Union. Their official website describes the competition as a mix of „experimental and laboratory activities in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics.“ In order to compete in the European Olympiad of Experimental Science students must first win national competitions in the related fields.

Results and Team Members

There were 120 students competing in this year's edition. They formed 38 teams. Croatian teams captured 6th and 7th positions in the team rankings. The gold medal went to Team B which was made up of Borna Perkovic (III Gymnasium, Split), Lovro Mirkovic, and Jelena Glasovac (XV Gymnasium, Zagreb). Team A won silver with Filip Vucic (I Gymnaisu, Zagreb), Petar Jukic and Nika Tretinjak (XV Gymnasium, Zagreb) in the roster. Mentors in charge of preparing the students, setting up laboratories, and translating the tasks were also a very important part of this result. They are the Faculty of Science members Tajana Begovic (chemistry), Andreja Lucic (biology), Petra Cvjetko (biology), and Kreso Zadro (physics).

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Sunday, 13 December 2020

Croatian Scientists: Chance of Serious Vaccine Side Effects Far Lower Than Virus Complications

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 13th of December, 2020, a group of Croatian scientists and doctors have stated in an open letter to the public on Sunday that without the coronavirus vaccination, the ongoing epidemic would not go away, stressing that they were convinced by rigorous scientific testing that all of the currently approved vaccines would be effective and safe.

''Based on rigorous pre-vaccine testing, and according to the strict rules of the medical and scientific community and regulatory agencies, we're confident that all of the approved COVID-19 vaccines will be effective and safe and that the risk of their serious side effects will be to be reduced to a minimum,'' pointed out the signatories of the letter, among whom is the Croatian scientist Ivan Djikic, who has been especially vocal during the pandemic.

Croatian scientists and doctors have warned that without vaccination, and without additionally respecting the proper epidemiological measures, this pandemic will not disappear, but will consequently last longer and cause additional human and economic losses for Croatia's residents.

''Proper vaccination provides protection against infection for individuals, and vaccination of the population can lead to the creation of collective immunity. For these reasons, but also for the lack of more effective therapy, we consider vaccination against COVID-19 to be the best way to protect people,'' the statement said.

The risk of serious side effects from the vaccine is immeasurably less than the risk of developing complications as a result of the coronavirus infection.

Croatian scientists and doctors, as well as those from abroad, have stated that the new coronavirus is potentially very dangerous and is highly contagious, and that the risk of serious side effects from vaccination is immeasurably lower than the risk of complications due to COVID-19 for each age group.

''A lot of people are undecided whether or not to get vaccinated because of the possible side effects. It's important to understand that the vaccine activates the immune system and teaches it to recognise the virus in a safe way. Therefore, it acts as a fake infection, which helps build immunity against SARS-COV-2, but it can also cause some transient discomfort,'' they explained.

This group of Croatian scientists also say that vaccines for the novel coronavirus have been developed faster than any other vaccine in the world, and that they understand the level of public interest in them and the questions that are being asked about it. However, they state that their trust in these currently developed vaccines is based on the extensive results of scientific tests, and that the vaccines that will be used in Croatia are tested and approved according to the strictest safety criteria of the European Union.

Vaccine administration is continuously monitored by regulatory authorities.

Many side effects such as local redness, fever and fatigue are actually very normal consequences after each vaccination as this is an effect of the expected activation of the immune system, but they aren't considered to be more severe side effects than usual, the scientists explain.

''To reduce the risk of serious side effects to an absolute minimum, extensive and rigorously controlled clinical studies are being conducted on tens of thousands of volunteers,” they say. They add that even after the vaccine is approved, the use of the vaccine is then continuously monitored by regulatory bodies, and in the event of more serious side effects, vaccination is limited or suspended.

At the end of the statement, they pointed out that as scientists and members of the healthcare community, they unanimously support and recommend the official Vaccination Programme in Croatia, according to a harmonised schedule and priorities, in order to protect human life from possible serious consequences of the disease.

The statement was signed by the following Croatian scientists: Ana Barac, Ivan Djikic, Magdalena Grce, Danka Grcevic, Stipan Jonjic, Vanda Juranic Lisnic, Tomislav Kelava, Vladimir Krajinovic, Astrid Krmpotic, Pero Lucin, Kresimir Luetic, Igor Mezic, Bojan Polic, Iskra Pusic, Kristijan Ramadan , Ivana Novak Nakir, Marija Santini, Vlatko Silobrcic, Mihaela Skobe, Sasa Srica, Ivana Smit, Igor Stagljar, Tihomir Stefanec, Janos Terzic, Andrej Trampuz, Boris Ujevic, Sinisa Volarevic, Domagoj Vucic, Oliver Vugrek and Felix Wensveen.

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Friday, 11 December 2020

Crowdfunding Campaign Launched for Visnjan Observatory

December 11, 2020 – A crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising 635,000 kuna was launched to expand the existing and build the new educational capacities of the Visnjan Observatory, the third-best in the world in the number of detected asteroids that are a potential threat to life on Earth.

Located on the edge of the western Istrian plateau, Visnjan Observatory is probably the most prominent Croatian organization that has educated future Croatian scientists for several decades.

At the beginning of December, a group of volunteers launched a large crowdfunding campaign in its favor and in favor of the Astronomical Society of Visnjan, the association that manages the Observatory. The goal is to raise 635,000 kuna by the end of December, and the Astronomical Society Visnjan will invest the donated funds in the construction of new education facilities.

The worth of investing in children

If the campaign raises 300,000 kuna, a new geodetic dome will be built, which will enable the maintenance of larger educational and practical programs. If the campaign reaches the target of 635,000 kuna, additional bungalows will be built where the Visnjan Observatory will accommodate a larger number of children, their professors, and mentors.

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Visnjan Observatory / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

In case the collected amounts exceed the target amount of 635,000 kuna, the head of the Visnjan Observatory, prominent Croatian astronomer Korado Korlević plans to establish a location for testing robotic telescopes and additional capacity to accommodate students. This award-winning communicator and selfless knowledge-giver, at the same time, one of the most successful asteroid hunters in the world, believes that investing in children is the most significant and only investment worth working for.

Educating future NASA scientists

The Visnjan Observatory is Croatian pride at the global level, both scientifically and educationally. For forty years, it has been at the very top of the world in tracking and detecting asteroids, which are potentially very dangerous for life on planet Earth. That is why this small Observatory in the heart of Istria is even ahead of the American NASA.

During 2018 and 2019, the Observatory discovered and documented over 1,400 asteroids. However, although the monitoring and detection of asteroids is a significant scientific activity of the Visnjan Observatory, for Croatia, it is even more important for educating children and youth about science, technology, and the entire STEM field.

So far, thousands of primary and secondary school students have attended educational programs here. Some of these children are now adults working as scientists in prominent Croatian and world scientific institutions, such as NASA and JPL.

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Visnjan Observatory / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Some of today's scientists who discovered the first mysteries of the cosmos as kids attending the educational programs of the Visnjan Observatory are Mario Jurić and Vernesa Smolčić. Today, Mario Jurić is s professor and director of the DiRac Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.

"Schools and work in Visnjan have shown me that there are no limits to possibilities. They have shown me that with a lot of work, creativity, self-belief, and great mentors, a group of kids from Croatia can build something competitive with the strongest observatories in the world. Let us never ask ourselves can we do something, but rather how we could do it," says Jurić.

Today, Vernesa Smolčić is an astrophysicist and a professor at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb.

"Visnjan was my turning point in terms of breaking down mental limitations. With Korado, everything just clicked in me," says Smolčić.

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Visnjan Observatory / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Gala dinner awaits big donors

Visnjan Observatory has managed to do all this with very modest capacities, based on volunteer work and donations. That is why this crowdfunding campaign is one of the larger actions taken to make the Visnjan Observatory accept, accommodate, and educate a significantly larger number of children and youth in its educational camps as early as 2021.

"I invite science lovers and people in Croatia and abroad who care about the education of our children about science and technology to support the campaign with donations, as much as anyone can. You can donate any amount, say 25 kunas or more. If you can't donate now or later, it also helps to share a link to an ongoing campaign. We hope that large donors will join too because an exclusive gala dinner with Korado Korlević has been prepared for them," said Aco Momčilović, head of the crowdfunding campaign.

Donations can be given on the Croatian platform croinvest.eu, and the contribution can be paid via a simple payment slip, via internet banking, credit cards, and even via cryptocurrencies. By writing this article, 50 percent of the targeted funds, or 306,000 kunas, had been raised.

Source: croinvest.eu, astro.hr.

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Monday, 31 August 2020

MARLESS Project: Scientists Develop Autonomous Mobile Network for Waste Collection

August the 31st, 2020 - This small country is abound with talent. From the sporting world to the arts, medicine, science and beyond - Croatia excels in its ''production'' of great minds and impressive skills. Croatian scientists are absolutely no exception and a group from Dubrovnik are developing something that will help to reduce the worrying amount of waste that ends up in the Adriatic sea. Meet the MARLESS project.

As Morski writes on the 30th of August, 2020, the University of Dubrovnik is one of the partners in the praiseworthy MARLESS project - "MARine Litter cross-border awarenESS and innovation actions", which began back on June the 1st, 2020.

The MARLESS project will address the problem of waste in the Adriatic sea from various aspects, which includes monitoring the amount of waste in the sea, raising citizens' awareness of this problem, pilot activities aimed at testing experimental processes of removing waste from the sea, as well as transboundary management to reduce waste which reaches the Adriatic sea, according to a report from the local Dubrovnik Portal.

As many as thirteen partners from several regions of the northern and southern Adriatic are participating in the project worth a massive 4,244,726.00 euros. The main partner is the Regional Agency for Environmental Protection and Prevention of Veneto, and the project involves the regions of Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Apulia and Emilia-Romagna, the University of Bologna and the Cetacea Foundation from Italy, while the Croatian team consists of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the Centre for Marine Research of the Ruđer Boskovic Institute, the University of Dubrovnik, the Regional Development Agency of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, the Istrian Regional Energy Agency and Istria County.

The scientific team from the University of Dubrovnik consists of teachers from the Department of Aquaculture and members of the Laboratory for Intelligent Autonomous Systems from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computing. With a budget of 399,860.00 euros, they will develop an autonomous mobile network for floating waste collection and contribute to activities which will work to properly monitor the amount of waste in the Adriatic sea and raise citizens' awareness of this growing problem.

This strategic MARLESS project lasts from the 1st of June 2020 to the 31st of December 2022, and is implemented within the INTERREG cross-border cooperation program Italy - Croatia 2014-2020.

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