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Evaluation of the research quality and capability of the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Sofia, and defining of an action plan

Final Report Summary - EVEREST (Evaluation of the research quality and capability of the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Sofia, and defining of an action plan)

The project EVEREST, supported by the FP7 (Capacities) under THEME FP7-REGPOT-2008-2 Research Potential, aimed at (i) evaluating of the overall research quality and capability of the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Sofia, on the base of an independent evaluation by international experts including preparation of SWOT analysis, and (ii) using this analysis in preparation of an Action Plan (AP) for the future development and improvement of the Faculty research capacity.
As a first stage of the project the evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Faculty research has been successfully performed by 5 independent evaluators, selected by the Commission. Preliminary information about the research activities of the Faculty scientists has been collected by all research groups in the Faculty and made available to the evaluators. The information package consisted of a short description of each department and detailed description of each independent research group (including the publication and citation record of the last 10 years, project, equipment, etc.). The experts have visited the Faculty in the period 26 to 29 May 2009. The visit consisted of meetings with the Steering Committee (SC), Faculty staff, young scientists and PhD students, members of all research groups, members of the Advisory Board (AB), and University authorities. On the base of the provided information and the discussions on site, the evaluators prepared the "Evaluation Report and SWOT Analysis". At a seminar two of the evaluators presented at the Faculty staff their report and discussed the conclusions of the presented report and further actions. The main obstacles for fully developing the research potential of Faculty on which both sides - evaluators and Faculty members - agreed were: (i) "too high amount of teaching activity ... between 180 to 360 hours/year classroom activities ... considering that in West Europe generally the teaching duty is about 120 hours/year"; (ii) the lack of money for: maintenance the infrastructure, acquiring up-to-date equipment and consequently "very few up-to-date equipments", hiring highly experienced professionals; (iii) the lack of post-doc position in the Bulgarian educational system; (iv) low international experience of the young scientists, etc. The recommendations made by the independent experts were also directed to the State and University authorities as arguments for improving the Bulgarian science and research policy. The overall conclusion of the evaluators as stated in their report was that "compared to the lack of most advanced instrumentation and the non-optimum infra-structure, the presented research output is astonishing and reflects a very high competence in the different fields and the ability to cooperate internationally with colleagues which dispose over those instruments".
The second stage has started with SC meeting where the most important issues in the SWOT Analysis were outlined and used as milestones for the AP development. Taking into account the ideas and suggestions of evaluation report and SWOT analysis as well the discussions with the evaluators, the first draft of the AP was drawn. The Action plan was discussed at a special seminar, at the Faculty Council and at a meeting of the AB and Industrial representatives. In all discussions the AP was accepted positively and was found consistent with the mission of the Faculty and the University, with the recommendations of the evaluators and with the goals for future development of the Faculty as a leading research centre in Bulgaria. The final version of the AP was accepted at the last meeting of the SC at the end of the project and was suggested for dissemination among the other faculties of the Sofia University as a model for good practice.