Scientific instruments

The progress of science in general and the competitive position of a country in particular depend on the existing research and knowledge base and access to scientific equipment that is technically advanced so as to allow scientists to perform research and at a global level .Effective use of scientific equipment requires it to be part of the institutional framework that allows researchers to take full advantage of it in their everyday work.

There are some clear trends in terms of design, supply and productivity of scientific equipment.On the one hand, technological progress drives the creation of large-scale infrastructures, increases the quality of the research and access to research results.On the other hand, scientific progress requires higher and higher standards of performance.There is a process of increasing investment in scientific basis, accompanied by reduction and sharing of operational costs to work with scientific equipment as a result of the introduction of technological innovations and the use of distributed access from virtually anywhere in the world.Investment intensity in research grows due to increasing need of advanced scientific equipment by a growing number of scientific fields, such as life sciences.

Thus existence of a modern research base becomes a major challenge of the national research policies of many countries.There is a growing need for scientific services and practice-oriented technological solutions to address the rising complexity and seriousness of problems of modern society, and this in terms of increased demands for efficiency and effectiveness.Why research equipment should be subject to research at European level?

First, the goals of the European Framework programmes cannot be achieved if the participating research teams are not sufficiently equipped.Poor infrastructure is an obstacle to the recovery of the full value of the investment in research.There are differences in the provision and condition of scientific equipment between and within European countries.One of the possible approaches to deal with such fragmentation and imbalance are the initiatives to build a "network of excellence" and "centers of excellence".

Second, success in developing integrated European Research Area largely depends on achieving the objectives of the European roadmap for research infrastructures oriented towards expanding and diversification of European research base. Usually when talking about research infrastructures, the focus is on large-scale projects that are used to conduct basic research. It should be emphasized that it is not least the importance of medium and low-scale scientific equipment, and its use in the inter-institutional and international research networks, includingon a virtual basis.Such an understanding can only be achieved through coordinated action at European level.

Thirdly, much of the scientific equipment market is international.However there are national specifics regarding the research teams and scientific areas that require conceptualizing solutions for the development and use of scientific equipment, including through the establishment of comprehensive databases, application benchmarking, developing good practice of the full use of research infrastructure which is ate European level.In many cases, from the perspective of the individual scientist problem is not so much the purchase of scientific equipment, as it is the access to it.In other words, there is a problem with so-called"Encapsulation", which is an obstacle to achieve a synergistic effect of the investments.

The study of the state of the art of the science base within the European Union has a number of serious methodological, conceptual and practical challenges.The applicable approach is the one that combines the advantages of case studies and research among the scientific community, conducted in the context of common European and national policies for the development of research infrastructure. The results of this approach can be supplemented by a comparative analysis of practices used in financial schemes and instruments, as well as with imposed models for managing and monitoring. Some key factors that are important for the analyses may include:

  • value of the available scientific equipment per researcher in different priority areas;
  • share of the equipment at world level and with average technical capabilities;
  • structure of the sources of investment in new scientific equipment and financial resources for its operational support;
  • share of research teams and institutes engaged in important areas of research that cannot be fully operational due to lack of modern scientific equipment;
  • scientific areas with the critical need for development of modern research infrastructure;
  • Categories of equipment that is most sought by the scientific community in a certain research field.

Decisions about the provision of modern scientific base and access to it should focus not so much on the purchase of certain scientific equipment, needed for short-term needs of individual research teams.This process must take into account the complex needs of the strategic development of critical research areas, and this in the context of a common European policy on scientific, technological and innovation development and modern European map of research infrastructures.