Professor Antonín Holý's Address
First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks for the honor conferred upon me by the University of South Bohemia in bestowing the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa. I am especially grateful to the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Libor Grubhoffer, who has dedicated a lot of effort and personal time to the organization of today's event. This is easily demonstrated by the fact that he answered in full my questions concerning today's ceremony immediately after I sent them by e-mail long before 6 a.m. I have often encountered similar enthusiasm for work not only in teachers of this university but also in students who, for instance, willingly came for tutorials at times which necessarily meant very early departures from České Budějovice.
Since my first visit to České Budějovice almost twenty five years ago, I have envied you - not only for this modern and beautiful campus but especially for the perfect symbiosis between the University of South Bohemia and institutes of the Biological Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. This arrangement is indeed rare and extraordinary in our country and has a positive influence on both the teaching efforts of the staff of the Academy and the ratio of students among young people in this city. This is not something that is mentioned in any mission statement, nor is it awarded points in the notorious tables of the Council for Science and Research. In this respect, there is truly a lot to envy.
If I compare the situation in the university city of České Budějovice with the situation in Stanford, California, or Ann Arbor, Michigan, or on the other hand in Pushchino and Akademgorodok, Russia, which are all places with a high concentration of scientific work that have a common denominator of scientists being isolated from normal "civilian" life, I certainly prefer the European approach in tackling this social problem. In this era of easy and immediate internet access to universal databases and the growing number of electronic versions of scientific journals, such an isolation of science from everyday life no longer makes sense; with the only exception being "brainstorming", the certain induction of thinking, created by "spirit of place". That is why the symbiosis between university research and "professional" research seen here is so successful.
There is another significant aspect that I would like to mention at this point, namely the cross-border cooperation of this university with its closest neighbor in Linz, Austria. In this case too, great credit must again go to Professor Grubhoffer. It is, by all accounts, a mutually beneficial arrangement based on an exchange of expertise and facilities in chemistry, lacking at the University of South Bohemia, and in biology, lacking in Linz. It results in a common study program, which takes place at both locations. I believe this is the future of Europe, one based upon cooperation between regions rather than a union represented by the central governments of the national states. I envy the chance that my younger colleagues have to participate in this unique undertaking.
I hope I will not be considered immodest if I mention my part in engaging my friend and colleague, Professor Erik De Clercq, the world famous virologist and a long standing director of the Institute of Medical Research, the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, here at the Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice. After reaching 65 years of age, Professor De Clercq was not only removed from office and the leadership of his work group but also prevented from continuing his lectures to his medical students. As I knew how much he loved lecturing and was aware of the high quality of his lectures, I decided to make efforts to mitigate the impact of this purely bureaucratic measure. With the help of Rector Václav Hampl, I succeeded in arranging lecture courses at the 2nd Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague as well as at the Faculty of Medicine, Palacký University in Olomouc and at the Faculty of Science here in České Budějovice. I am genuinely pleased that this worked out well because, although, as a virologist, he has a medical education, Professor De Clercq has a rare, almost unbelievable, capacity to think as a chemist.
In conclusion, allow me to touch upon a few acute problems presently affecting the whole academic community, namely the reduction mechanism of the state grants to universities, science, and research. We all surely remember the disastrous situation caused a few years ago by the inexpert approach to the formal allocation of funds to universities according to the assessment of research aims. The latest idea is to make assessments according to a point system, elaborated and approved by the Council for Science and Research with no regard to critical comments made during its preparation. The excessive emphasis put on the formal submission of patent applications, which are practically worthless without subsequent implementation, together with the cutting of funds according to a simplistic calculation of points may in affect lead to the simple elimination of whole scientific disciplines. This is especially pertinent to institutes of the Academy of Sciences, which, unlike universities, are heavily dependent on government funds for their everyday operation. I do not wish to repeat arguments which we have all heard ad nauseam. Many of those present actively took part in the internet discussion on the Learned Society web pages. Despite all the assurances made by previous governments that science and research would not be cut but supported, it is clear that the former of the two is in fact the case and that very soon we will have to tighten our belts. The issue at hand is how we are to bid for these already reduced funds and what will be seen as valuable in assessment of research output.
MH © 10.VI.2009