I. Increasing the impact of the scientific activity of the University on the development of world science
Research universities strive to improve the quality of scholarship, in order to increase the chances of making breakthroughs in the sciences and to influence solutions for the main socio-economic problems of the modern world; they also endeavour to provide knowledge that enables faster technological progress and answering questions related to the functioning and development of our civilisation. The University of Warsaw adopts the following specific objectives to increase the impact of research on world science:
1. Supporting talented researchers in building their position in the scientific world
A SWOT analysis has shown that only a limited number of researchers employed at the University of Warsaw carry out research which leads to results that make a significant contribution to European or world science. Thus, there is a need to create support mechanisms that would allow more researchers from the University of Warsaw to carry out high quality research, both at the University of Warsaw and in projects carried out in renowned scientific centres abroad. In this respect, it is important to enable researchers to contact scientists of world renown, and to support the creation of teams with potential to carry out top-quality research. Such activities must be supported by strategic cooperation programmes between universities, and through mobility programmes which enable temporary stays in the best national and foreign research centres. This applies in particular to researchers at the initial stages of their scientific careers; therefore, this objective is linked to Objectives II (internationalisation) and IV (support for young staff) and will be implemented through actions planned with their needs in mind.
2. Increasing the publication and implementation capacity for the results of research carried out at the University of Warsaw and with the participation of University employees, in the most widely recognised periodicals in the world
The number of periodicals for publishing research results is growing steadily, though at the same time, only a small percentage of them have an internationally recognised and acknowledged reputation. The research results they present can gain adequate worldwide resonance and recognition. It is therefore important to provide support for researchers with results that are publishable in the best periodicals in the world, and to ensure that they are sufficiently rewarded, so that they are not content to publish in less prestigious journals. This objective will be pursued through several types of action. These include training researchers to acquire skills for constructing scientific texts, responding to reviews, and selecting the most suitable journal, and also creating support for researchers during the publication phase. Open access policies are important here, though this requires significant contributions on the part of the University. Support will also be given to those periodicals that are published by the University of Warsaw, with potential to increase the impact of the texts published in the sciences.
3. Support for the creation of research programmes and teams that will become future centres of excellence, including plans for their internationalisation
A large amount of research, despite its potentially innovative nature, is carried out at the University of Warsaw by university research teams, in which researchers from other universities participate only incidentally. This makes it more difficult to obtain breakthrough research results and may limit them to the local context. Therefore, the individual POB should be supported to build up a critical mass of high-quality, globally recognised research. This process involves creating or connecting teams which are working at the University of Warsaw with international research networks, which would prepare principles for research which, due to their potentially ground-breaking nature, would be financed by international research funding agencies. It would also be possible to carry out preliminary research, to verify and substantiate those principles. In addition, support will be provided for the unique resources at the University of Warsaw, so that researchers from other centres may also benefit from them.
4. Maintaining a strong infrastructural foundation for world-class research
Conducting ground-breaking research requires professional infrastructure. Technological progress and the constant development of research methods mean that infrastructure should be continually modernised. The University of Warsaw has many world-class research facilities and laboratories, though they are ageing. It is therefore necessary to implement two types of action: first, the existing infrastructure should be modernised continually, through the purchase of new software or technical renovation, among other things; second, a body of technicians should be formed, who would ensure the appropriate use of the equipment, thereby increasing potential access for researchers from outside of the University of Warsaw (also part of the implementation of Objective V).
II. Strengthening research cooperation with internationally renowned scientific institutions
UW is a member of the 4EU+ Alliance of research universities. However, it does not limit the internationalisation of its activities to collaboration with alliance members, only. It develops cooperation with other scientific centres which are carrying out ground-breaking scientific research. The following objectives will enable UW to achieve increased scope in the area of international cooperation:
1. Strengthening research cooperation within the framework of strategic partnerships with other universities
In international cooperation, it is crucial to identify and support people with the potential and willingness to implement projects which involve researchers from other countries. This can be achieved by creating a system of grants for the establishment of interuniversity research teams, and by providing support for people who have been highly rated in international competitions but have not received financing for their projects due to limited resources. These funds cannot replace international grants, but can allow teams to continue, and re-apply for funding of their research project from another source. This will also allow for the creation of permanent research teams with leading European and non-European universities. In addition to partners from the 4EU+ Alliance, the University of Warsaw has chosen several universities which it has begun intensive cooperation with, by conducting joint projects of research-based education (implementation of Objective III), or promoting the creation of joint research teams. It also has centres which are co-run with other universities. Activities like these will be developed in the future.
2. The implementation of a general mobility scheme
Outbound and inbound mobility are an important aspect of a scientific career at every developmental stage, but especially in the first years after obtaining a doctoral degree (implementation of Objective IV). It contributes to building networks, prestige and recognition in the international arena, which positively translate into greater influence on world science (Objective I). However, this process must be carefully planned in order to benefit from it. In this respect, it is essential to work abroad in reputable research centres and to invite researchers with recognised achievements to the University, who could then share their experiences and increase the potential of the research centres and teams. It is especially important that people benefiting from mobility could become participants of actual research teams, both as leaders and participants.
3. Improving the capacity to cooperate by increasing research capability
The participation of researchers from recognised research centres will be made possible provided that the resources and capacities of the host institution are at an appropriate level. Data from previous collaborations have shown that universities cooperate most effectively when selecting partners from universities with similar potential and strategic objectives. Therefore, it is important to increase the potential of the resources available, so as to convince potential partners to undertake strategic cooperation with the University of Warsaw. Activities in this area cover two areas. First of all, they include building the competence of UW employees to cooperate with researchers from leading scientific institutions and increasing the research potential by creating unique analytical tools and databases that can be used by researchers from other centres. Next, it is necessary to build the competence of external researchers to organise scientific projects and prestigious events, in the form of conferences and seminars.
4. The implementation of a system for communicating scientific achievements and research results
An analysis of the results of international rankings shows that despite having conducted many internationally recognised research studies, UW does not have a reputation as a research university. Recently, progress has been made in this area, but additional measures still need to be taken. The presentation of scientific research requires the use of appropriate tools. One of them is publication in prestigious journals or publications (Objective I). The second is the presentation of results at conferences which attract researchers from all over the world. UW is a member of international networks organizing cyclical congresses with international reach. They gather the most outstanding researchers, and comprise an opportunity to share research results, as well as build teams and take up new research problems. In order to strengthen the image of UW and support its cooperation with institutions of high international renown, each POB will organise a congress to bring together the most outstanding researchers in a given area, in cooperation with a leading scientific network or organisation. The organisation of the congresses will also become an element of achieving Objective I, by establishing cooperation with leading journals and enabling publications in so-called “special issues”. This will help build the prestige and reputation of the University of Warsaw, which will in turn facilitate the expansion of current cooperation and help with the establishment of new international projects.
III. Improving the quality of education for students and doctoral candidates
A key element of the education model in a research university is having a strong connection between the curriculum and research-based teaching, articulated in the creation of programmes based on state-of-the-art research results on the one hand, and on the other hand, in gradual involvement of students in the research process – from familiarising them with the scientific workshop of disciplines and disciplines up through the possibility of conducting independent research projects as part of individualised study programmes.
PhD students should be given opportunities to participate in high-class scientific projects, and to develop their research competences under the guidance of outstanding scientists who are conducting ground-breaking research. It is equally important to have a system for recruiting talented young people to study research-oriented curricula and programmes, and at the same time, to develop a system of individualised support for the most outstanding students. This will allow them to develop their research competences at an early stage, while preparing them to take up tertiary education at doctoral schools and carry out projects meeting the highest standards.
The above concept requires the following objectives to be achieved, which will be operationalised primarily in cooperation with the POB and based on their resources.
1. The implementation of a mechanism for transferring the results of the most recent research and research trends into education programmes
The research areas indicated in the POB include issues of importance to societies and respond to the challenges of the modern world. High quality research will be conducted by international teams, and their results will be used in academic curricula by updating the programmes of existing fields of study, not only in terms of content, but also modern methods of working with students (enquiry-based teaching) and encouraging them – especially those of upper secondary studies – to write their diploma theses on topics related to the POB issues. This requires close connection to the activities specified under Objective I. At the same time, selected modules implemented within the framework of unique fields of study, based on POB research, will be included in existing curricula. This will apply in particular to those classes and modules that prepare students to undertake their own research, with the use of the latest data analysis tools as presented in the description of the activity.
2. Providing opportunities for the creation of unique programmes and learning paths (also in doctoral schools) connected to research carried out under the POB
It is also assumed that new programmes and courses of study in English will be created on the basis of the POB, which will mainly be conducted in the form of individualised teaching and research paths (student-customised curricula). Linking research to teaching will enable direct contact between students and eminent researchers – also from abroad – and will allow for relatively quick inclusion of students in research works under a POB, which may encourage them to take up further education at doctoral schools.
There are four doctoral, interdisciplinary, or multidisciplinary schools at the University of Warsaw which provide doctoral training. They will create special, individualised training paths for doctoral candidates, with dissertation projects related to the subject matter of the POB. Scientific support will be provided by researchers who conduct research affiliated to the POB. Ultimately, each doctoral student will have two supervisors – one from the University of Warsaw and the other from the partner institution, participating in the POB. A system of double doctoral diplomas is also planned with foreign partners, to strengthen the scientific potential of doctoral candidates through participation in international summer schools, which are related to the research areas covered by the POB.
3. Implementing a system to recruit and develop young talent
Obtaining the best candidates for studies is one of the major challenges faced by a research university. In the experience of UW, it has been shown that excellent results in the educational process are achieved by the winners of various thematic Olympiad competitions for youth, and by outstanding graduates of secondary schools. That is why there are plans to create a comprehensive system for reaching secondary schools and to strengthen cooperation with teachers who have gifted students under their care. They will be invited to academic classes and will be given the opportunity to participate in research seminars, especially those related to the implementation of research within the POB.
The Olympiad winners and candidates who achieve the best scores during recruitment will be included in the scholarship programme during their first year of studies, with the opportunity to extend it in subsequent years. An advisory programme will be created with these students in mind, to support the preparation of plans for scientific pathway development. They will also have the opportunity to implement individual training programmes and will be under the supervision of experienced researchers – mentors and tutors.
IV. The preparation and implementation of comprehensive solutions for the professional development of employees at the University of Warsaw
The formation of a scientific career path is based upon the individual decisions of a particular researcher and what that person’s university has to offer. A university should support the decisions made by its employees, while maintaining definite limits in the direct influence it has on them. This means giving individuals the freedom to conduct research. It is also important that a researcher’s professional development path accounts for the individual phases in his or her life, during which different types of activities may be preferred. The Excellence Initiative includes plans for achieving the following objectives:
1. Creating a model to mentor and provide community support for young researchers
During the preparation of their doctoral dissertations, doctoral candidates are usually supervised by a single supervisor, who has a significant impact on their research plans. After obtaining their doctoral degrees, they should be able to compare their work with that of other outstanding researchers, in order to broaden their perspective. A model for mentoring and providing community support will be created at the University of Warsaw for young researchers who have obtained their PhD degrees within the last two years. They will have the opportunity to consult their plans for the near future, including the area of obtaining grants. Advice on forming their first research teams with the potential to conduct research – the results of which may be seen from an international perspective – will also be important. These steps will allow individuals to achieve research independence.
2. Mobility programmes for young researchers
Mobility, whether for a shorter or longer period, is an essential part of any research career. It can most easily be done at an earlier stage in life, due to relatively fewer long-term commitments, potentially including family responsibilities. It is therefore very important that mobility offers consider and properly address individual needs. As part of the Excellence Initiative, a mobility programme has been planned which consists of two stages: departure and return. The mobility grant will be divided into financing the trip to the best scientific centres in the world, and then the implementation of plans after the researcher’s return, e.g., in order to conduct preliminary research or prepare applications for research grants. Another form of support will be in the form of grants for short trips abroad, to establish scientific cooperation with leading research centres.
3. A grant system to support employees’ career paths
Since 2017, a system of internal grants has been in place at the University of Warsaw to finance selected activities of researchers, such as trips to prestigious conferences with accepted papers, issuing invitations to recognised researchers for consultation of grant applications, or for proofreading services. This system was successfully launched in 2018. Based on the conclusions from an evaluation, an extended catalogue of activities financed from internal grants will be introduced. The maximum amount of one grant will also be increased. Its main (though not only) beneficiaries will be researchers at the initial stages of their careers, who need a small amount of support to gain necessary experience, which will be used when applying for an external grant.
4. A model for supporting the preparation of breakthrough research programmes and projects
At research universities, most employees receive various types of research grants. At the same time, only a small percentage of them are able to obtain the most prestigious grants, such as those awarded by the European Research Council (ERC). At the University of Warsaw, a comprehensive model will be created to support employees and researchers from other institutions who want to apply for such grants. It will cover all stages of application planning and preparation: from the selection of the research area, through shaping the optimal career path and application writing, to test interviews prior to the second stage of selection. These steps will increase the number and success rate for ERC grants and other prestigious international grants.
V. Improving the quality of management at the University
A research university needs to provide its staff with high-quality support for research, education, and other aspects of scientific activity; it must provide them with good facilities and a productive working environment, and enable the staff to form work teams flexibly. This requires adequate resources, a well-designed organisational structure, reliable and easily accessible information, and effective communication. A SWOT analysis has shown that UW has severe deficits in this particular area, mainly due to the “silo effect” in its organisational structure, differentiation in operating models and standards, scattered resources, poor availability of management information, and ineffective communication/networking channels for scientists. The Excellence Initiative and the management tools and procedures created within its framework will become a driving force for management change (improvement), by pursuing the following objectives:
1. The implementation of a knowledge management platform integrated with existing IT systems at the University, and the intranet as a tool for communication and internal cooperation
A key function of knowledge management tools should be the registration of projects by a uniform standard (a database of projects, which enables searching for research of a given type, among other things); projects should be described in terms of their most important dimensions (value, partners, achievements in the form of publications, the promotion of young staff, mobilities, conferences, etc.) The database should be integrated with the financial module, the Polish Scientific Bibliography, and the human resources module. This will enable the creation of a database of researchers and scientists (and will help one find collaborators based on a portfolio of projects). As a result, it will be possible to monitor the state of the discipline and conduct strategic analyses for the purposes of forming research policies. The main functions of the intranet are to ensure effective information flow, communication, and cooperation (e.g., virtual, shared workrooms). The intranet will enable teamwork despite the diversity among the disciplines represented in the POB, and their locations in various buildings and on different campuses.
2. Strengthening the accessibility and quality of services provided by employees in the academic environment (research managers, legal and administrative services)
Effective support in the process of conducting research requires professional and diversified resources, with competencies adequate to the different stages of the research. In the initial stage – when generating ideas and concepts – mentors (e.g., the heads of research teams, promoters) are needed to help identify the strengths of a given researcher and/or support the development of a research concept; professional managers can then help select the most appropriate competition and project preparation strategy. In the course of project implementation, efficient and professional legal and administrative services, including those in the area of purchasing (public procurement), finance and human resources (employment and mobility) are needed, as well as access to the staff necessary for the implementation of research (including employees operating laboratory equipment and providing support while conducting experiments, and often specialists from other fields of science – e.g., researchers in the digital liberal arts may need support from statisticians and programmers). In the POB, the position of a “research manager” should be created, to ensure that an adequate level of support is provided to researchers and to develop models for providing high quality professional services, training employees, transferring knowledge, and sharing good practices.
3. Increasing organisational capacity to acquire and conduct research (especially in the POB), including analyses and data (e.g., bibliometric data) to help develop strategies for the development of disciplines and support researchers’ careers
A research university must ensure the optimum scientific productivity in the conducted research (high-quality publications, the promotion of young staff members, inclusion of talented students, etc.). Research – and especially prestigious research – can be a vehicle for achieving scientific goals while also strengthening cooperation, attracting new talent, involving doctoral candidates and students in research, building the reputation and image of the University, etc. This process requires good analytical and advisory resources. Carrying out research sometimes requires personal financial contributions and/or ensuring funding between grants (if the researcher was employed on a temporary basis, as part of a completed project). Therefore, the POB must have a fund to finance researchers’ contributions and a system of rules for fund allocation.
4. The creation of an ID management structure model, using modern IT tools
The POB will be an instrument of change in the way UW functions, and should form a model structure for research management in administration, and project management culture. A project as complex as the Excellence Initiative cannot be achieved without dedicated IT tools which will enable ongoing monitoring of task execution, as well as risk management.
VI. Increasing the international significance of the University’s activities – Federalization with the Medical University of Warsaw
Closer cooperation between the University of Warsaw and the Medical University of Warsaw (WUM) will be yet another impetus toward achieving the position of a well-recognised university in Europe. Closer cooperation between WUM and UW will allow for better use of the potential of both universities. Together, they will be able to carry out more comprehensive scientific projects concerning the most important challenges of modern times. These require the knowledge and experience of specialists, and the infrastructure that both universities have at their disposal; they will be able to compete more effectively with other comprehensive universities in Europe and worldwide. Students and doctoral candidates will be able to participate more widely in the teaching activities of the partner university, as well as benefiting from its scientific clubs and university business incubators. The universities will join forces in applying for grants to implement joint scientific projects.
The strengthening and development of the University’s potential in the field of medical and related sciences, and the choice of WUM as a partner university, are carefully considered decisions which are rooted in shared history. Medicine and pharmacy were taught at the University of Warsaw until the 1950s. By decision of the state authorities, the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy were separated from the University in 1950. This merger created the Medical Academy in Warsaw, which is today’s Medical University of Warsaw.
For many years, UW and WUM have cooperated in research, e.g., within the consortium of the Centre for Preclinical Research and Technology, as well as in projects concerning the social contexts of vaccination. They also carry out educational projects together, such as those conducted by both universities in the field of general and clinical speech therapy, or criminology and forensic science.
Meetings of scientists from the University of Warsaw and WUM have shown that the research the institutions carry out is often complementary, as are many of our major areas of study. We already do many activities together to develop cooperation between the two universities. During these meetings, more than 100 scientists from both universities had the opportunity to talk about the research carried out by their teams. They primarily focused on issues that could be developed jointly by the two universities. The researchers saw opportunities for conducting joint research in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics in biology and medicine, mathematics in medicine, genetics, neuropsychology, immunology, physiology, regenerative medicine and pharmacy, and others. Representatives of the social sciences and humanities, such as those working in areas like public health, bioethics or psychology, also count on further cooperation with WUM. Among specialists representing the humanities and social sciences, there are many opportunities; research leading to the development of technology or medicine introduces various new challenges, e.g., ethical issues. Scholars in the humanities and representatives of social sciences can therefore contribute an extremely important element of humanism to the research cooperation between both universities.
Starting in October 2018, employees and doctoral candidates of the University of Warsaw and MUW may apply for grants – up to PLN 10 000 – to carry out joint research projects financed with external funds, including NCN, NCBiR, MNiSW or EU research and innovation programmes, among them Horizon 2020. Microgrants may be used, among other things, for short stays at foreign research centres, carrying out preliminary research in order to apply for an external grant, and to cover the costs of participation in conferences or seminars. And since 2017/2018, the Incubator of the University of Warsaw has also addressed its services to the WUM community. Students, doctoral candidates and employees of this university may participate in meetings, workshops and programmes organised by the Incubator of the University. Cooperation between the Open University of Warsaw and WUM began in August 2018, and for the first time, courses conducted by employees of WUM were offered in the recruitment process.
The UW/WUM collaboration has already started on a strong note, though the process of developing and strengthening it further would not be possible without a well-prepared long-term strategy to uphold the knowledge triangle – E+R+I (education, research, innovation), including cooperation with partners from foreign research centres, and a solid organisational background. Therefore, the University of Warsaw will undertake activities supporting these objectives, as part of the Excellence Strategy.