Slovak science faces a number of long-term structural problems, which significantly reduces its competitiveness at a European level.
First, there is luck of money that is derived from other areas – obsolete research infrastructure, lack of middle age scientific generation, weak innovation environment, lack of capital to support new innovative companies that use research results and overall lack of technology transfer to the economic and social practice.
An important factor affecting the whole R&D&I ecosystem is a public interest in this area. On the one hand, it motivates scientists and on the other hand, it can put pressure on politicians to support key areas of the state or regions. As shown from the Eurobarometer survey that was focused on perception of science and technology in society, the interest of Slovaks in inventions and technological innovations is the lowest in EU countries. About 23% of respondents in 2010 said that they are not interested in this area. However, a detailed insight into the perception of science by Slovaks has not existed up to now.
Therefore, Slovak organization for research and development activities (SOVVA) has assigned creation of a poll, which has been focused on Slovak public perception of science. The main reason for this move was the decision of the Government in February 2011 to relocate 120 million euro from the operational program Research and development to the operational program Transport – the funds should be used to construction of highways. This government intention has provoked a wide response in the scientific community and it conditioned the biggest protest when the call entitled “Save the science” has been signed by 9,341 people in a few days.
The survey that was initiated by SOVVA, brings several key findings to assess the role of science in society:
the public perceives the importance of R&D that is supported by structural funds of EU, in the next programming period 2014 – 2020 also;
more than half of the respondents has considered the relocation of funds from research and development to build the motorways to be a good decision of government and a quarter of respondents was not able to express on this issue;
only one eighth respondents has considered their own awareness of Slovak science to be adequate. On the other hand, three-quarters of respondents considers their own awareness to be insufficient. The level of awareness increases with level of achieved education.
only one of the twenty-five respondents actively seeks information about R&D and two fifths respondents are not interested in it – even if they happen to come across in the media.
an interesting feature of the survey is that one of the six respondents who stated that he is actively interested in information on science – this person has visited at least once the event “Researchers´ night”.
The poll has clear answered that rate of perception of science (as an engine of progress and increasing the competitiveness of the Slovak economy in our country) is at low level in our country. Only a small percentage of Slovaks are actively interested in science and technology. On the other hand, 40% of respondents are not interested in information on science, though they meet the information in media. The interest in science is increased by the level in educational attainment. The survey has shown that the area of the relationship between science and the public is still at relatively low level in Slovakia, while the presentation of scientific results and achievements of Slovak scientists in the media is relatively low. A barrier that exists between science on the one hand and the society on the other hand is removed gradually only, while a social prestige of scientists is not adequate. All the factors influence students in deciding on making a career in science.
Slovaks consider R&D funding to be very important. On the other hand, they believe that Slovak Science brings them results that do not bring definitely economics and social benefit. This is caused by the lack of presentation of research results of Slovak scientists to the general public, while Slovak scientists often contribute to world-class research that pushes the boundaries of knowledge forward. As shown by the survey, and despite some progress, the barrier between science and society does not sink.