No. 36




Top-level Research in Estonia and Its Problems

07 December 2017


RiTo No. 36, 2017

  • Leho Tedersoo

    Senior Research Fellow, University of Tartu Natural History Museum, Member of the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences

  • Lili Milani

    Senior Research Fellow, Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu, Member of the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences

  • Heisi Kurig

    Research Fellow, University of Tartu Institute of Chemistry, Vice-President of the Estonian Young Academy of Sciences

Top-level research is necessary for a small country like Estonia in order to ensure cooperation with research institutions abroad, export innovative products and promote the society here.

The need for innovative approach can be felt from the medicine system to the environment and energy sectors. The innovative analysing methods created by scientists are increasingly used in the humanities for analysing and preserving the development of language and culture. The low financing of top-level research by the state puts the sustainability of research in Estonia under doubt, because the financing by the EU is decreasing and the Estonian companies do not participate in the financing of research on the level expected by the government. This has brought along the situation where only one of eight research funding applications to the Estonian Research Council receives financing, and several very strong projects of the most cited researchers are rejected due to lack of money. Several specialities do not get any support from the state and survive only thanks to the financial aid from the university. Doctoral studies in the Estonian universities are in the most critical state, because doctoral scholarship is significantly lower than the average salary. Young researchers who have acquired doctor’s degree and completed post-doctoral studies abroad experience difficulties in finding suitable work, and the universities do not have adequate career models for promoting their scientific career and ensuring initial funding. We suggest four main ways for the most effective promoting of research in Estonia: increasing the contribution of the state rapidly to at least 1 percent of GDP; increasing the doctoral scholarships to at least the average net salary in Estonia; creation of career models for young researchers at the universities and assistance for entering business; and reducing of bureaucracy in checking the use of research funding.