Polish Academy of Sciences

The Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) - the most significant scientific institution in Poland - was founded in 1952. Its roots date back to 1800, when the Warsaw Learned Society was established on the initiative of StanissÅaw Staszic – an outstanding personage in Polish scientific life.

After his studies at the College de France and returning to Warsaw, StanissÅaw Staszic - a priest and adept of natural sciences - undertook scientific activity not only in the field of geology and botany, but also in the sphere of science organization which resulted in the foundation of the above mentioned Warsaw Learned Society. This was the first Society of this kind on Polish territories, being at that time under occupation of three conquerors – Austria, Prussia and Russia. In 1815 similar societies were established in other Polish cities such as: Krakow, Poznan, Lvov, Torun and Vilnius. In 1872 the Academy of Knowledge, presently bearing the name the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, was founded in Krakow.

After World War I when Poland regained independence, the Academy of Knowledge was called the Polish Academy of Sciences and Letters and transformed into a private institution of higher public utility with four divisions: philology, history and philosophy, exact sciences and medical sciences.

The idea of establishing a state scientific institution, being a country-wide representation of the whole Polish scientific community, emerged as early as in 1920s. It was acknowledged that under new living conditions in Europe it would be easier to conduct research significant for the country’s economy, which would be subsidized from the state budget. Its natural consequence became a necessity of a better coordination of research related to the needs of newly established state, such as economy, education, country defenses and agriculture.

The situation after World War II determined not only deep changes in Poland’s political system, but also in all fields of social life, including science and culture. Polish science suffered great losses during the war, with regard to both its representatives and scientific background. Therefore, during the war, in the years 1940-44, the members and employees of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences and universities drew up, during clandestine meetings and discussions, principles of post-war organization of science in Poland, its goals and mode of its financing. Thus, the project of the organization of the Polish Academy of Sciences located in Warsaw and composed of the above mentioned learned societies and the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences was worked out.

In 1949 the Polish government decided to convene the Congress of Polish Science. In its organization numerous scientists from the whole country took part. The respective document entitled the “Project of the organization of the Polish Academy of Sciences” was elaborated in 1951 and it was adopted by Congress. On October 30, 1951 the Parliament passed the Act on establishing the Polish Academy of Sciences. In the following year, the government issued a decree discontinuing the activity of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, which was generally perceived as a senseless political act.

The Act defined the Polish Academy of Sciences as a state institution, whose tasks include organizing and conducting research in all fields of science with particular emphasis on the problems that are momentous for scientific progress itself and for the state economy and culture in Poland. In 1952, the four divisions of the Academy were set up: for humanities and social sciences, biological sciences, mathematical-physical-chemical and geological sciences, and technical sciences. Then, a process was started for the creation of a net of strong research centers organized in a modern way.

The Act on the Polish Academy of Sciences of 1951 was considerably extended in 1960 placing emphasis on the autonomy of actions, independence of corporation and on strong connections between the corporation and the Academy scientific centers developing research at the highest possible level. The system of scientific advice and evaluation for the purposes of state institutions was developed at that time. The Academy divisions were expanded, branches and committees were formed. Due to this, the whole scientific community of the country was drawn into the process of organizing scientific workshops, education and dissemination of science.

The Academy consists of national members (including both full and corresponding members) and foreign members. Membership in the Academy is held for life. The number of national members is set at no more than 350. All members (national and foreign) are elected by the General Assembly from among candidates with the highest scientific achievements and of recognized authority. The names of potential national members are submitted by current national members, councils of university faculties, and scientific councils of research establishments in Poland (including the Academy institutes). Foreign members are proposed and elected by the national members. Each member of the Academy is a member of one of the seven divisions, according to her or his scientific discipline. Members are responsible for their own scientific activities as well as the statutory tasks of the Academy. The current number of the members (as of February 2009) is: 325 national members (178 full and 147 corresponding members), and 197 foreign members.

There are no proactive measures at present to increase the participation of young scientists and women, though there are a number of scholarships, grants and prizes to encourage young scientists in their early scientific careers.

The number of women national members is 13, so their proportion to the total number of national members amounts to 4%. In Poland, 65% of university graduates are women, and 43% of scientists engaged in R&D. However, so far women had played only a minor role in research policy setting (chairs of scientific councils 6%, university presidents 8.6%). There is no program to promote gender equity or to empower women administered by public or governmental offices.

Recently, the Ministry of Science has proposed to allocate funds for a special program for women returning to work from maternity leave. In addition, the Ministry has launched a reform program to enhance the promotion of young scientists and to shorten their pathway up to higher academic/professional positions including leadership/chair posts at scientific and academic institutions.

In accordance with the present Parliamentary Act of April 25, 1997, the supreme governing body of the Academy is its General Assembly, consisting of all national members. The General Assembly sets forth the direction of the Academy’s activities and supervises their execution. Between the sessions of the Assembly, which take place twice a year, the Presidium of the Academy takes responsibility for all strategic issues. The Presidium is composed of the President, three vice-presidents, seven divisions chairmen, presidents of the territorial branches, plus 14 additional members elected by the General Assembly from among the members of the Academy. The Presidium supervises the research units and other establishments of the Academy. The President, who also chairs the General Assembly and the Presidium, is responsible for PAN activities on an everyday basis. The election of the President for a four-year term requires at least a 2/3 majority of votes of the General Assembly members.

The organizational structure of the Academy is comprised of divisions, territorial branches as well as scientific and task force committees. There are seven divisions of the Academy:
Division I. Social Sciences,
Division II. Biological Sciences,
Division III. Mathematical, Physical, and Chemical Sciences,
Division IV. Technical Sciences,
Division V. Agricultural, Forestry, and Veterinary Sciences,
Division VI. Medical Sciences, and
Division VII. Earth and Mining Sciences.

Each division, chaired by its elected chairperson, formulates opinions on issues concerning its scientific disciplines and provides advice to the Academy authorities on research priorities and policy in a given field. It is also its task to supervise and coordinate activities of the division’s scientific committees, as well as to generally supervise all Academy research establishments in a given field.

There are seven territorial branches of the Academy located in: GdaaÅsk, Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, ÅóddÅ, PoznaaÅ and WroccÅaw. Their role is to integrate the local scientific communities and act as representatives of the Academy to the local authorities and organizations. The territorial branches consist of national Academy members, according to their place of residence.

The committees constitute a very special part of the Academy. They fall into two groups: the scientific committees affiliated with the divisions, and the task force committees affiliated with the Presidium. The Academy’s network of 107 committees constitutes a major representation of all researchers in Poland and of the Academy’s advisory bodies. Their membership amounts to about 4.000 elected members. Each scientific committee constitutes a self-governing representation of a scientific discipline for the purpose of integrating Polish scholars. The tasks of the scientific committees are: to deal with the problems of a particular discipline, to contribute to the dissemination of the research results, and to initiate cooperation with foreign scientific centers. Furthermore, a task force committee at the Presidium of the Academy or at the division level has interdisciplinary competence, being involved in research concerning science studies, teaching, and social and economy issues.

PAN as a research institution is currently comprised of 76 research establishments (institutes and research centers, research stations, botanical gardens and other research units) and auxiliary scientific units (archives, libraries, museums, and PAN centers abroad). 76,3% of the total budget of PAN is provided by the Polish government and local authorities. Foreign resources constitute 5,3% of the total and 17,5 comes from several other sources.

The publishing activity of the Polish Academy of Sciences comprises research establishments’ publications, corporation publications and general publications of the Academy.

Research establishments’ publications are: journals, book series and occasional publications. Information can be found at research units’ home web pages (list is to be found at www.english.pan.pl).

Information concerning corporation publications (divisions and committees) can be found at www.english.pan.pl in respective sections.

General Academy publications are among others:

  • “Annual Report” (general information on Academy’s activities, published annually in English);
  • “Directory” (general information on the Academy, in English, every 4 years);
  • “Sprawozdanie PAN” (activity and financial report, annually);
  • “Nauka” (book series, quarterly);
  • “Academia” (journal, published quarterly in Polish and English from 2004);
  • „Katalogi osiiÄgniiÄ™Ä naukowych” (catalogues of scientific achievements);
  • „Album PAN. The Past and the Present” (occasional publication);
  • “Nauka dla Polski” (materials from the session held in the Parliament).

Information on the above publications and links to their on-line editions are available at: www.english.pan.pl . The following prizes and medals are awarded by the Polish Academy of Sciences:

  • Nikolas Copernicus Medal, established in 1997, no more that 6 a year .
  • Medal of the Polish Academy of Sciences, established in 2008, no more than 10 a year.
  • Polish Academy of Sciences Statuettes, established in 2008, no more than 5 a year
  • Jubilee Medal of the 50th Anniversary of the Polish Academy of Sciences, established in 2002, 300 medals occasionally awarded to individuals particularly merited for PAN.
  • Awards granted by the PAN seven Divisions for outstanding scientific achievements, established in 1963, awarded yearly.
  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award, established in 1967, granted yearly by the PAN Division III Mathematical, Physical and Chemical Sciences (one in the field of physics and one in chemistry).

Prizes and medals awarded by the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences

  • Award of the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences for scientific and organizational activities, established in 1997, awarded yearly to one or two individuals (or a team)
  • “Golden Mind – Master in Knowledge Promotion” – granted from 2006 by the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences to two young scientists (below 35 years) every year.

Since its establishment, the Polish Academy of Sciences has considered international scientific cooperation as an indispensable tool for fostering steady progress of research in Poland. Hence its efforts have always aimed at establishing an extensive network of contacts with foreign partners which would be independent of political influences.

While developing international academic cooperation based on the principle of partnership and benefit to all participants, the Polish Academy of Sciences consolidates both traditional bilateral contacts, and multilateral relations through the membership of over 100 international scientific organizations as well as by participating in an increasing number of research projects conducted by all-European organizations.

Bilateral cooperation with national academies of sciences and their equivalent units is based mainly on agreements with 75 institutions from 41 countries. Such collaboration involves conducting joint research projects, organizing study visits, establishing joint commissions, teams or expert groups.

The Academy’s units have signed circa 740 agreements with foreign research centers. Basing on these agreements, the Academy’s research centers and foreign scientific institutes are able to develop and implement joint research projects.

Furthermore, the Academy acts as a coordinator of academic international cooperation of all its centers, a number of institutions of higher education and affiliated institutes. Collaboration between centers and individual scholars, in turn, develops steadily and independently of formal agreements.

As for multilateral cooperation, the Polish Academy of Sciences is a member of the European Science Foundation (ESF), the European Federation of National Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA), the European Academies Scientific Advisory Council (EASAC), the Global Network of Academies of Sciences (IAP) and many other international organizations. The Academy coordinates activities resulting from Poland’s collaboration with the International Centre for Mechanical Sciences (CISM) in Udine, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in Trieste, New Delhi and Cape Town. The Polish Academy of Sciences also coordinates the cooperation of the Polish scientific community with international scientific organizations such as the International Council for Science (ICSU), all its scientific unions and the majority of affiliated organizations and committees. The collaboration with the above organizations is carried out by National Committees established by the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences, or the Academy’s Scientific or Task Force Committees.

The Academy‘s centers and their scientists participate in the research programs implemented by UNESCO, WHO, UNIDO and other UN-based organizations, as well as projects coordinated by the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA), the European Centre for Nuclear Studies (CERN) and the International Centre for Nuclear Research in Dubna. More and more frequently the Academy’s research teams together with their colleagues from EU countries carry out joint research undertakings co-financed under the Framework Programs or participate in EUREKA projects.

The Academy has initiated the establishment of international research institutions in Poland such as the International Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, the International Centre of Biocybernetics, the International Laboratory of High Magnetic Fields and Low Temperatures and the European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology under the auspices of UNESCO. The Academy also supervises such scientific establishments as the Stefan Banach International Mathematical Centre, the French-Polish Centre of Plant Biotechnology or the Academy’s polar stations on Spitzbergen and King George Island (the Antarctic).