A "professional factory" for books
Interview: Senior leaders from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry talk about collaborative library initiatives.
The Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB; part of the Czech Academy of Sciences) is only a stone's throw away from NTK—physically, the Institute is located just across Fleming Square. But following an agreement to gradually integrate IOCB's library with ours, the two institutions are in some ways even closer.
We met with Dr. Zdeňek Hostomský, the acclaimed Institute's Director, and Professor Martin Fusek, its strategic director and head of technology transfer, in order to learn more about what they expect from this collaboration in the sphere of information resources support.
- How did you come up with the idea of combining your information support services with those of the National Library of Technology?
M.F. It came up during a meeting with the Institute of Chemical Techonology (ICT)'s Rector, a meeting to discuss how our two Institutes might work together. In the course of the conversation we discovered a possible touchpoints for collaboration might be NTK (ICT's library was in the process of merging with NTK at the time). This interested us and we began investigating our own collaboration. An important consideration for us was NTK's competency as a "professional factory" when it comes to taking care of books. Why duplicate such services ourselves, when the professionals are right next door?
- What do you think are the primary benefits of this collaborative effort?
M.F. We want to enhance the efficiency of the entire research process and to provide our scientists with world-class support services. It seems logical to us to evaluate where our library collections overlap, and where there are duplications, to keep only one copy. We'd like to accelerate the speed of services, particularly online availability of materials. And we expect some savings in terms of personnel, although this is not our primary aim. We additionally look forward to new services: specialized searches, patent searches, assistance in reformatting publications from one journal to another, conference/presentation support, and more.
Z.H. Perhaps I should additionally emphasize the social aspects of integration. The beautiful library building stands right between our Institute and the Institute of Chemical Technology and can become a meeting place. If scholars and researchers begin from both institutes begin to encounter each other there, they may suddenly discover common interests. This is a natural way of fostering interpersonal communication. The old model of the library as just a building is over; integration and interpersonal relationships are the next step.
- The IOCB is devoted to basic research in the fields of organic chemistry, biochemistry and related disciplines. What is different between the kind of R&D you conduct versus that of a private company?
M.F. These are two different subjects. Government has to support education, culture and science, including basic research, but funding is always limited. Commercial entities receive money from the sale of licenses, which allow them to do things that a public institution might not. Non-state funds are now being used to reconstruct our Institute.
Z.H. Political experiences illustrate that these two entities, namely the public sector and private sector, are often at odds. Consortia and companies are encouraged to put money into universities. But a good company mainly has to concentrate, as the saying goes, on the "bottom line" to succeed. Government should not interfere in economic activity and commerce.
- You say that basic research is important and impossible without practical application. How can you tell what projects have a chance at succeeding?
Z.H. Our institutional leadership is trying to create conditions for identifying the spectrum of basic research areas which have a chance of becoming something practical. We've founded a targeted research group, known worldwide as the "spin-off companies." We are very fortunate to receive funding from licenses from our "internal spin-offs." We identify groups that devote the majority of their efforts towards the development of ideas and commercial promise, without grants. Only time will tell if an idea is something. Talk with us in three to five years.
- And what recent research do you think has the greatest chance of commercial success?
Z.H. We have several interesting projects, but cannot be specific. Perhaps substances to treat obesity could be useful over time, but it's a long haul.
- What is do you think about the separation of teaching and research - a system in which future scientists train at universities but where research itself takes place mostly under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences?
M.F. I think the system, which has been in place a long time, works well. The question is whether or not to change it just because it might work differently. These two worlds (i.e., science and education) work so closely together now that modifications seem unnecessary. In our case, we've signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Institute of Chemical Technology and well as Charles University's First Medical Faculty. We strive to connect these institutions and are working on this very intensely. The universities focus on teaching; we focus on doctoral and postdoctoral research. Why change this? Let's leave it as it is and create more horizontal interactions.
The Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB) is a research institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences devoted to basic research in organic chemistry, biochemistry and related disciplines, focusing in particular on medical and environmental applications. It educates graduate students. It is the seat of the Committee for defence of doctor of science dissertations in organic and bio-organic chemistry. More information at www.uochb.cz.
The National Library of Technology (NTK) is the largest and oldest library of engineering and scientific literature in the Czech Republic with more than 1.5 million volumes. The library, a modern ecological building located in the heart of the Czech Technical University campus since September 2009, provides over 1,300 study spaces, wireless internet, and access to academic and popular science journals from around the world. The library is an important social and cultural center and works closely with neighboring universities and scientific institutions. More information at www.techlib.cz.
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- Collaborating to Provide Unparalleled Access to Scholarship
Photo: Stephanie Krueger of NTK talks with Dr. Zdeňek Hostomský, the acclaimed Institute’s Director, and Professor Martin Fusek, its strategic director and head of technology transfer, on April 4th, 2014.