The Czech Science Foundation failed to make research more coherent with practical applications

PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 16/19 – April 3, 2017

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) scrutinized the support into research and development that was provided by the Czech Science Foundation (also known as the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, GACR) in the period from 2011 to 2015. Auditors scrutinized CZK 15,300 million, which were utilised for the assistance to fundamental research, and concluded that the GACR had not directed the aid towards those research fields, which would have had more potential for practical exploitation of the results. The GACR also failed to make research more coherent with practical applications and made errors in public procurements related to grant applications. Moreover, the GACR did not assess the impacts of provided support in spite of the fact that the quality of fundamental research in the Czech Republic keeps falling behind the EU average.

During the audited period, public research institutions and universities received the largest support into fundamental research. This kind of research is supposed to bring new light on the field of research and is not linked to an immediate practical use. The GACR allocated the funds proportionally into all five fields of research. From 2011 to 2015, the average support rate ranged from 18 % with social science and humanities to 23 % with non-organic nature sciences.

National strategic documents stated that the support should aim at the fundamental research fields, which would improve the practical application of new knowledge and developments and also strengthen the competitiveness of the Czech Republic. However, the GACR did not direct the aid towards such goals. The SAO recommends that further emphasis is placed on the coherence of both fundamental and applied researches in the Czech Republic.

Auditors also revealed that the GACR made errors in public procurements, which were related to project selection processes. For example, the GACR violated the Public Procurement Act when changed the conditions of several competitions. In 2012, the GACR only informed about postponing the time-limit with one competition on their web pages just one day prior to the original term. The auditors concluded that the conditions were not the same with all competitors. In 2014, the projects supported by the GACR’s Board were different form the ones, which had been recommended by the assessment commission that also included foreign experts. Auditors concluded that the competition had not been transparent.

The GAČR also failed to observe the quality of outcomes in either individual research fields or in general. As a result, an overall assessment of the support’s impact could not have been produced. The quality of fundamental research in the Czech Republic remains below the EU Member States’ average. When compared with other EU Member States, the Czech Republic is not very successful in receiving grants from the European Research Council.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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