One of the key challenges of the Romanian education system is the research gap – only 4.7% % of Romanian scientific publications are highly cited in other publications, compared to the 10.5% EU average.1 Bridging this gap and increasing the quality of research is one of the key drivers behind the ‘KnowReset’ project developed by the West University of Timisoara, the Romanian Academy – Institute for Economic Forecasting, and the University of Iceland.
Through the project, the three institutions have created a transnational incubator for advanced, exploratory and interdisciplinary research in the socio-economic field. The aim of the incubator is to support research by building talent among undergraduate, graduate and PhD students, as well as individual researchers. This involved two summer schools – one organised in Bucharest and the other in Reykjavik, one international conference and competition, and two workshops. The summer school in Bucharest focused on academic writing and how to write research projects. The summer school in Reykjavik focused on strengthening the participants’ ability to realise advanced research, including sessions on the research methods and techniques relevant to socio-economic fields, and on the necessary skills for advanced scientific research in interdisciplinary areas. The conference and competition were addressed to students, academics and researchers from all over the world, rewarding the best research papers and business project proposals. The workshops raised the attractiveness for a career in research, emphasising the motivational reasons and opportunities offered by this career choice.
Motivating careers in research
The students participating in the project have had an excellent opportunity to develop their skills in an international environment. One of them is Milena Schank, who wrote an article under the coordination of the project manager and won the second prize in an International Scientific Session.
“Beyond the solid theoretical knowledge and interdisciplinary format, this experience has brought me joy by being part of a living academic community, connected to the latest discussion topics in international academia,” says Milena, adding that the experience played a large role in her decision to pursue a PhD in economic sciences.
Another student, Simona Burta, also received recognition for her work. Simona won the ‘Debut in Research Prize’ at the International Competition and Conference ‘the Research World of Interconnection’, showing an impressive development of skills and abilities in terms of research. She notes that the project has had a great impact on her student years:
“I am more than grateful for participating in the two summer schools. I worked hard and devoted my full interest for the final conference – receiving the Debut in Research Prize was quite the end for one of my most memorable experiences as a student!"
She is now thinking of following a PhD programme at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration after completing her Master studies.
The project placed a special focus on accessibility to education among disadvantaged communities, such as Roma. This was done by offering access to research infrastructure, increasing visibility of Roma culture, and informing Roma about educational opportunities covered by the state, as well as the consequences of school dropout. Additionally, two Roma students were given support and information on how to develop their skills and competencies in the socio-economic field, being members of the project target group.
Opening doors for cooperation
KnowReset is one of several projects supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Scholarship programme in Romania. The two Romanian and Icelandic universities have also worked together through another project supported through the programme, entitled ‘Opportunities and challenges for tertiary educational system in promoting evidence-informed good governance society – ActiveGovEdu.’
The relationship between the West University of Timisoara and the University of Iceland has grown strong and has extended beyond the two projects, with members of the Icelandic team teaching as visiting professors in Romania. Based on this strong cooperation, several research studies and publications have been realised through joint work within interdisciplinary and international research teams. Papers have likewise been published in international journals, helping researchers boost their visibility and professional prestige. Future citations will acknowledge the research quality, confirming again the value of the partnerships created over this time.
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