The component of research and innovation remains weak in the Western Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular. The entire research and innovation cycle faces numerous inextricable challenges from the lack of funding, lack of implementation of legal framework, to the lack of human capacities able to undertake quality research in both social and applied sciences. Unfortunately, the component of teaching and research remain separate from one another. Despite several studies from international and local organizations highlighting such issues and providing specific recommendations to stakeholders, the situation has remained pretty much the same over the years. In addition, despite legal efforts undertaken by the government of Kosovo over the years, the implementation of such legal documents remains an issue.
With the research and innovation component being one of the top priorities of the European Union agenda, there is an immediate need for Kosovo institutions to reflect on the next serious steps. However, currently Kosovo does not even have a national strategy for research and as stated by the latest European Commission report, Kosovo spends less than 0.1% of its GDP for research activities, regardless of the Law on Scientific Research Activities which foresees that at least 0.7% of the GDP will be allocated for science. Another concerning note by the European Commission reveals the lack of effort by the Kosovo institutions towards the integration to the European Research Area, which prioritizes efforts towards more effective national research systems, and transnational cooperation including research infrastructure among others.
One way for Kosovo institutions to contribute in this regard is the ongoing investment in Research infrastructure since they “make science happen”. According to a recent white paper published by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, the European Research Infrastructures are meeting the challenges of the European Research Area and are a key element and a prerequisite for conducting quality research and innovation.
So, what is the state of research infrastructures in Kosovo considering its overall poor research ecosystem? In the National Research Programme of Kosovo approved over a decade ago (2010) development of research infrastructures is a key objective of the specific Science and Technology targets as a prerequisite for the social and economic development of Kosovo. However perfect on paper, a recent study by the HERAS project in Kosovo estimates that the lack of research infrastructures is one of the largest barriers to the research activities in Kosovo and that in fact an integrated scientific research information systems does not exist even though it was planned to establish in accordance with the National Research Programme. Moreover, there is no strategy that particularly addresses the Research Infrastructures in Kosovo.
Even though Kosovo aims to join the area in the near future, with its current research infrastructure, the goal seems delusional. Accordingly, there is a critical need to leverage research infrastructures since there is little or no access in renowned research infrastructure or journals and no institutional support for excellent research.
This is especially true for Social Science Research which stands at a very disadvantaged situation. According to a study by CPC (2013), among numerous challenges, the state of social science research in Kosovo is hindered by first and foremost inadequate research capacities, noninstitutionalized research, lack of applicable social science research which would contribute to the implementation and design of future public policies, constraints in applying quantitative methods and lack of investment in research infrastructure and training. Consequently, there is no such thing as informed decision making and no comprehensive data available to the broader research community on the people’s views and/or beliefs on policy issues.
This situation puts HEIs in Kosovo at a quite disfavorable situation as potential consortium partners at Horizon 2020 since it is very challenging to convince project partners that they fulfil necessary capacities or expertise to join innovative research projects (KEEN, 2019).
So why is European Social Survey relevant and how would the membership of Kosovo into this renowned research infrastructure help tackle the above-mentioned challenges?
First, ESS is the most comprehensive international comparative research conducted under the auspices of the European Research Infrastructure Consortium since 2013, following the highest methodological standards in the domain of social sciences. Membership under this research mechanism would mark the first serious institutional step of Kosovo’s institutions towards the European Research Area.
Second, ESS offers the excellent opportunity to gather data which enable the understanding, measurement and analysis of long-term structural changes and identifying changes in values. These data are collected every two years covering various indicators and disciplines. Consequently, it increases the visibility and utilization of quantitative data regarding the social changes from the broad research community including the research community.
Moreover, ESS contributes to the development and expansion of advanced standards in implementation of national and cross-national social surveys, which in turn increases the human capacities in conducting quantitative research with the highest theoretical and methodological standards and more specifically training of researchers for comparative social measurements and analyzes.
Finally, Data gathered via ESS can be used by decision makers and/or state institutions when planning or evaluating certain policies thus contributing to evidence-based policy making instead of everyday political pressures, which would mark a milestone for the Western Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular where such practice is almost nonexistent.
The text was written by Lirije Palushi