Following the visit of the Bulgarian peer learning team to the Faculty of Civil Engineering at University of Rijeka, Croatia in December 2018, the Croatian colleagues returned the visit, coming to the Institute of Oceanology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Varna on 20-21 March 2019. These exchange visits have the goal to provide the participating managers of research infrastructures an opportunity to learn about each other’s good practices, challenges and plans, and exchange practical recommendations.

The Croatian team consisted of Nevenka Ožanić, the vice-dean of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, and two ResInfra@DR partners, Mirela Čokešić and Doris Jozić from Croatian Ministry of Science and Education. They were supported by the local ResInfra@DR team member, Marko Hajdinjak from ARC Fund.

Atanas Palazov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oceanology, welcomed the guests with a short introduction. The programme continued with a presentation made by Valentina Todorova, Deputy Director for Science. She briefly presented the history of the Institute of Oceanology, and its work and research activities in the fields of marine physics, chemistry, geology and archaeology, biology and ecology, coastal dynamics and ocean technologies. She also highlighted the successful international partnerships of the Institute related with the Black Sea and World Ocean studies (numerous projects funded by the EU Framework Programmes, Operational Programmes, cross-border cooperation programmes and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO). Also presented was the MASRI (The Infrastructure for Sustainable Development of Marine Research Including the Participation of Bulgaria in the European Infrastructure Euro-Argo) – research infrastructure  established at the Institute of Oceanology in 2018 with financial support from the Ministry of Education and Science of Bulgaria. MASRI envisages both a major modernization of the existing scientific facilities and the construction of new ones, but due to late and insufficient funding it is still in its initial phase.

After Ms Todorova’s presentation, a small focus group was formed with participation of the heads of the following departments: Marine Chemistry, Marine Biology and Ecology, Marine Geology and Archaeology, Coastal Dynamics and Ocean Technologies. Department leaders presented the work of their teams and answered questions from the Croatian colleagues.

The discussion was followed by a visit to the research laboratories of all departments, the Data Centre and the yard, where Institute’s Research Submarine is “parked” when not on a mission to explore the Black Sea waters.

The busy schedule was interrupted by a lunch break, only to continue with one of the highlights of the visit: a short tour of the research vessel “Akademik”. Mr Palazov and the “Akademik” crew presented the ship and its functions, highlighting some interesting facts from its quite long life (constructed in 1979, operating as a research and scientific vessel since 1988).

The reminder of the first day and most of the second day were dedicated to interviews with research infrastructure operators and users. The visiting team talked with the experts in charge of various laboratories, with PhD students and young scientists conducting their research in the labs, and with external researchers who are using the laboratory facilities at the Institute. During these interviews, various aspects and challenges of conducting research in Bulgaria in general and at the Institute of Oceanology in particular were discussed.

After the lunch break of the second day, the Croatian visitors and Mr. Palazov commented on some preliminary conclusions from the visit and the interviews, and discussed a possible cooperation between the Institute of Oceanology and the Faculty of Civil Engineering. Several weeks after the Varna visit, these discussions bore fruit and the two organisations have jointly developed a Memorandum of Understanding, which will be signed in the near future on a formal signing ceremony in Rijeka.

Next Resinfra@DR event
Findings and conclusions from the peer visits to Rijeka and Varna will be presented on the final ResInfra@DR WP5 event in Bratislava on May 22-23 - further details will follow soon.


Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)