Remarks by Jiří Nantl, Director of CEITEC at Masaryk University

Research Group Leaders Meeting held on 13 June 2017 on the occasion of installation of new Junior Research Group Leaders

We are holding this meeting because we are approaching the point at which new research groups will be formed.

The fact that we are forming two new junior research groups, on the basis of the call announced in December 2016, is something that moves us, as an institution, into another stage. It is a changing moment in the life of this institute. We have said that at all future times we will only use open, international call with unrestricted conditions related to any own extramural funding held by candidates. That is how it is going to be done. But I think that the call which we have carried out, not only was an act of standard life cycle at a research institute. It also was an act of fairness. There were many colleagues who joined this institute on the basis of a promise, or indication, that promotion to becoming a group leader will be available. And it wouldn´t be right to deny such a chance to this category of people.

I am very proud of the way the selection process, which was steered through by Karel, was done. It not only was done on rigorous basis, but it also was very competitive. I am also proud of all colleagues who submitted their applications – as they knew this was going to be very competitive – and they have shown their belief in CEITEC and its future. And in the end, I was glad to have the consensus of the selection committee. In result of the, we are going to have research groups of Robert Vácha and Michal Šmída.
Forming these two new research groups is also part of the wider change bringing us yet closer to the standard life cycle of a research institute. Not only two new research groups are being formed, but we have, too, seen one research group gone on the ground of institutional policy regarding required minimum size of research groups. And there will be junior groups´ evaluation in the autumn, done by the ISAB. In that case, it may also happen that some of these groups will not pass the bar. That is not an outcome we desire, but we will be ready to implement it, if necessary.

So new this institute has a standard life cycle for research groups, and has adopted and implemented policies that prove our viability. And with this institutional infrastructure of policies and rules, we even in future be able to cope with any challenges that come and go, even with very difficult situations. I have just heard of a case of an excellent research institute in United Kingdom that got a funding cut by one third, and through structural changes, they managed to cope with that. That is a normal and predictable situation for any research organization. It is duty of the management to put in place rules and system so that the institution can cope with such a situation without endangering its core mission. That is what we have been doing, and will continue to do.

There is yet another change which will be implemented along with establishment of the two new research groups. That is redesigning names of research groups so that they will bear names of their group leaders. And in a way this has been interesting because this is a major change but does not come from the management, but has been proposed and debated among heads of centres. I was very glad to approve with this, as it symbolizes the other changes we are undergoing, and it is a usual thing elsewhere.

It obviously is not very usual at other types of employment and activity to have a unit named after you – but in fact, this is not such much a privilege for group leaders. Much more than that, it is a sign of responsibility. It now means, it will mean that when any member of a research group goes anywhere, conducts any activity, they will do so in your name. It enhances the visibility and responsibility of group leaders as scientific leaders, and it also enhances their responsibility for members of their groups. And it will also help to supress situations where a research groups actually consists of several sub-groups, with quasi-independent principal investigators who do not have formal position of a group leader. It will support consolidation of groups, it will not be so easy to justify that you have people from are basically independent from you, who do quite other topics.

So that is another change that is complementary to policies that were adopted, and it all points to the importance of responsibility of the leaders for the development of the institute.

And on this occasion, I would like to use this opportunity to emphasize once again the importance of managerial responsibility, be it the responsibility of a group leader, core facility head, head of administrative department, or myself.

Irrespective of the particular function, all of us take decisions and action, sometimes inactions that have impact on life of people who work with us. The impact goes beyond the actual work assignments and performance, and reaches to shaping other people´s attitudes, career plans and self-confidence. That is something they bring with themselves outside the work context, sometimes for a very long time. For that reason, it is important that we provide a fair, sincere and open culture, where everyone assumes their responsibility for their impact on others, and on the whole.

For managers – and group leaders are managers, too – it means the responsibility for the people you hire, the responsibility to provide a candid assessment of their performance, development and progress. Sometimes it involves the responsibility to tell them it may be time to consider they go, either for other places, or even to change of a career. It is a big responsibility. Without sincere supervision and advice, people may get stuck, pass the point when a meaningful career move or change would have been possible. Therefore, in particular the responsibility of group leaders who train postdocs and doctoral students is very important, and there is no one else who effectively can help navigate these people during the early stage of their career.

One of the key priorities, and part of the vision for CEITEC MU, is that we provide a fair, transparent and friendly environment to our community. But that cannot be achieve if we were just nice to one another. It takes creating an atmosphere that is open and sincere, where we are telling people how things are, what they can expect, that they can rely on promises that were made. And then, people can make an informed choice, and assume their responsibility for their own careers and professional life.

So that is my wish that the new group leaders will understand these principles, and will lead their groups that way. It is also important that all the other group leaders support and inspire them. And that is how we can make this institute an exceptional place that will foster new generations of scientific leaders.

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