University of Vienna to boost regional collaboration with its CENTRAL European Partners

Vice-Rector Jean-Robert Tyran

Vice-Rector Jean-Robert Tyran @Hans Schubert

The University of Vienna has taken the initiative in coordinating and strengthening activities in the CENTRAL network. Professor Jean-Robert Tyran, Vice-Rector for Research and International Affairs at the University of Vienna, explains its role and potential.

 

What is the CENTRAL network and why is it important for the University of Vienna?

CENTRAL brings together five comprehensive, research-intensive universities from capitals of Central Europe. These universities have much in common and share important values. There is a multitude of cultural and historical ties between these institutions. These ties create a certain affinity between these institutions and the people working there which, in turn, provides an ideal basis for collaboration. CENTRAL is a regional network and therefore complements the numerous and multifaceted relations we have to universities around the world. The physical proximity to our partners will help us to keep these relations intense at a low environmental cost since we can visit each other without necessarily having to board a plane.

What is the role of the University of Vienna in the network?

Since regional cooperation is important to us, we have decided to invest considerable resources and have volunteered to take over the administrative lead from Humboldt Universit├Ąt zu Berlin. This means that we will make special efforts to provide the network with services, new ideas and impulses. We see our role not so much as leaders while the others follow, but we see ourselves as coordinators and facilitators, as enablers of cooperation. We will try to involve all institutions and be open to ideas and suggestions from everyone at our home institutions.

How can CENTRAL help to build bridges between Vienna and Central Europe?

The University of Vienna wants to be perceived by its Viennese, Austrian and European peers as the competent academic partner in all issues relating to Central Europe. We are extremely grateful to Ambassador Emil Brix, who supports us in this endeavor. His vast expertise, broad professional network and his affinity for Central European affairs are most valuable assets in establishing relations to our peers in Austria and beyond. Emil Brix has been a senior diplomat (he served as consul general in Poland and as Austrian Ambassador in several countries before becoming the director of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna). Additionally, our partner universities will also appoint Central Ambassadors, but these persons do not necessarily have to be senior diplomats. Their task is to spread the word about the activities of the network in their home countries and beyond, and to help to build new connections within the region.

 

"The close cultural and historical ties between the partner universities provide an ideal basis for regionl collaboration." Prof. Jean-Robert Tyran

 

 

What are the main activities of the network?

Our main focus is on early-stage researchers. We encourage early-stage researchers to meet and exchange ideas for new initiatives. The financial support we provide to this end will contribute to forming long-term relations, and these relations can, in turn, provide the basis to apply for external funding. The network is not restricted to particular fields or topics. It is open to activities in the entire range of disciplines represented at our universities. We are, of course, open to suggestions on how to bring, especially early-stage, researchers together. Everyone is welcome to suggest ideas on how to spark off exciting research and to create ties between CENTRAL universities.

What impulses does the University of Vienna bring to the network in its new role?

We do not intend to re-invent everything from scratch but want to build on previous initiatives and improve them where necessary. For example, we have changed the format of CENTRAL workshops to allow for more effective mingling and exchange of ideas between early-stage and more experienced researchers. By having a good mix of up-and-coming and established researchers, the early-stage researchers will benefit from the experience and guidance of the more established ones, while the early-stage researchers will challenge the senior researchers with fresh ideas. We plan to work on expanding opportunities for training, for mobility and skills development of early-stage researchers. And finally, our ambition is to reach out to the public. To achieve this objective and to provide information about our various activities effectively, we have launched a new website. And we are of course very pleased to recently have hired you, Ms. Grodecka, to support our team at the International Office.

How do you plan to reach out to the public?

Regrettably, perhaps due to nationally segmented political arenas, the shared Central European public discourse at present is not as developed as we would hope. Our idea is to shed light on why there are different perspectives on issues that affect all countries similarly (e.g. global environmental issues, migration), to foster a sense of commonality and to increase the visibility of knowledge produced within our region. One idea is to use and adapt well-tested formats at the University of Vienna, such as the Semester Question, that allow the CENTRAL universities to engage in dialogue with their respective national audiences about a common topic in a coordinated way. We also plan to reach out to the public through cultural events. For example, by sending our university orchestras on tour, or by presenting exhibitions from one university at another. A current plan concerns the exhibition on the Vienna Circle, which was originally shown at the University of Vienna on the occasion of its 650th anniversary. The exhibition will be presented to the public with a vernissage and accompanied by talks by philosophers in early October 2021 at the Charles University in Prague. We plan to show the exhibition at all CENTRAL partner universities in the months after.

What are your perspectives for the future of the network?

CENTRAL is striving to be the network of excellence for Central Europe. We want to become a knowledge hub and bring our expertise on a broad range of domains to the public. The partner universities will create a unique Central European research area and we plan to apply for funding from the EU and other sources to be able to scale up academic cooperation. The University of Vienna will coordinate all activities in the next three years, and we hand over this task to Charles University in summer 2024. We will do our best to work towards expanding the esteem for the network. We strive to be seen as a respected, appreciated and trusted partner within our respective universities, in our home countries and internationally. I am convinced that we will all enormously benefit from a strong CENTRAL network and I invite everyone to help making it happen.

 

 

"All partners will benefit from a strong CENTRAL network."

Prof. Jean-Robert Tyran

 

This interview has been conducted by Barbara Grodecka-Poprawska, CENTRAL Network Coordinator and Franz Michalke, Head of Team International Cooperation, International Office, University of Vienna.

ABOUT THE CENTRAL NETWORK

Five leading research-intensive universities in the capitals of Central Europe - Humboldt University / Berlin, ELTE / Budapest, Charles University / Prague, the University of Warsaw and the University of Vienna - have joined forces in the CENTRAL network. CENTRAL aims to strengthen regional ties between their members, to stimulate cross-border research, and to support especially early-stage researchers from Central Europe in their endeavours. The network has been established in 2014 and has since been led by Humboldt University. The University of Vienna has spearheaded the launch of the second phase of the network and is in charge of coordinating its activities until 2024.

For more information, please contact the CENTRAL coordinator: Barbara Grodecka-Poprawska or check the CENTRAL website: central-network.eu