The first independent evaluation of scientific excellence in CEITEC was held on June 2012. More than twenty top experts from leading scientific institutions from around the world arrived in Brno in order to evaluate the work of over 400 scientists from CEITEC. CEITEC organized evaluations of scientists solely by foreign experts, which guarantees truly independent and transparent evaluations. The aim was to gain an unbiased picture of the current state of affairs and to receive recommendations from those eminent in the field that could be implemented in individual Research Groups.
An independent evaluation by external assessors is part of the long-term strategy of the centre’s management as well as being beneficial to the centre’s international standing. During the preparation of the whole evaluation process CEITEC found inspiration abroad, mainly at the Belgian VIB institute. Individual evaluation committees for each Research Programme were chaired directly by members of the International Scientific Advisory Board of CEITEC or by other experts from prestigious institutions.
The chairs of the evaluation boards were:
- Herbert Stori, Institute of Applied Physics, Technical University of Vienna – RP 1 Advanced Nano- and Microtechnologies
- Wolfgang Knoll, Austrian Institute of Technology – RP 2 Advanced Materials
- Hartmut Oschkinat, Leibnitz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology Berlin – RP 3 Structural Biology
- Dirk Inze, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie – RP 4 Genomics and Proteomics of Plant Systems
- Andres Aguilera, Andaluzian Center for Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine – RP 5 Molecular Medicine
- Christoph Michel, University of Geneva – RP 6 Brain and Mind Research
- Darren K. Griffin, School of Biosciences University of Kent – RP 7 Molecular Veterinary Medicine
The system of evaluation consisted of three parts. Firstly, standard results for scientific work, the quality of published outputs, cooperation with the application sphere and success in getting international grants were evaluated. The evaluation was exacting. For example, any publications falling below the median in the relevant field were not included in the evaluation and, in contrast, the most prestigious journals were assigned a higher evaluation weighting. In the second part, individual research groups were compared to the relevant top teams in their fields in prestigious research institutes in Europe – namely Imperial College London, VIB (Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie) in Belgium, EMBL (The European Molecular Biology Laboratory) based in Heidelberg in Germany and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. In the third part there were personal interviews by scientists with the evaluators, who, apart from the overall vision and goals of the group, also evaluated the ability of Group Leaders to convince them that in future they can truly attain top results and bring the level of science at CEITEC closer to the best research centres. The ability and clear plans of the Research Group Leaders to ensure support and growth for young talents was also essential. Finally, reports from all parts were summed up, which will provide a quantifiable reply as to how the given team is doing and includes very important recommendations which will be implemented in the coming years. The next evaluations will then take place at 2014, 2016 and 2020. Subsequent evaluations will take place in four-year intervals.
The final results turned out to be positive for CEITEC. As Professor Wolfgang Knoll, the Scientific Director of the Austrian Institute of Technology and the Chairman of the CEITEC International Scientific Advisory Board mentioned the first evaluation showed that some research groups can already rank among the European elite and most researchers recruited by CEITEC definitely had the potential to achieve that level. Over a 5 to 10-year timeframe CEITEC should be the one of the leading European centres.