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SERBian- Austrian-Italian (SAI) partnership FORcing EXCELLence in ecosystem research

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SERBIA FOR EXCELL (SERBian- Austrian-Italian (SAI)partnership FORcing EXCELLence in ecosystem research)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-12-31

"The overall aim of the H20202 TWINN SERBIA FOR EXCELL project was to upgrade knowledge, skills and social capacity of researchers and teachers from Faculty of Agriculture, University of Novi Sad (PFNS) in the field of environmental sciences, with special focus on agrometeorology, crop ecophysiology and crop management.
Establishment and growth of the open AgMnet+ research group has led to establishment of new research and cooperation relations among project participants as well as with other researchers from PFNS and experts and researchers out of PFNS and the partner institutions. The results include: three times enlarged PFNS crew on the project, introduction of ""Serbian Society of Agrometeorology"" as a new pillar of future cooperation, and new scientific proposals and research papers published and submitted by members of AgMnet+network.
As a result of expert trainings, scientific visits and guest lectures, knowledge and skills have been improved and upgraded at different levels: a) PFNS curricula have been improved and 3 textbooks published: a teaching book ""Agricultural Meteorology and Climatology"", additional teaching material ""Agrometeorological Modelling – Abiotic Stress and Plant Production” and ""High School and Undergraduate Student’s Guide to Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics""; b) a new master program ""Climate Smart Agriculture"" has been introduced at PFNS; c) 11 joint project proposals and 5 joint COST actions have been submitted, 18 joint scientific papers published, 26 joint conference participations.
As a result of intensive exploitation of a ""problem solver"" concept, young researchers and PhD students identified gaps in their knowledge and skills related to different research techniques, data assimilation and management, crop modelling, paper writing and project management. In order to fill these gaps, trainings, discussion groups and lectures were organised at PFNS. They were run by the project participants (PFNS, BOKU, UNIFI) and guest experts in the field. Most of these were recorded and they are hosted on the project web page to be available to the general public and open for further discussions.
Conclusions of the action
a. In the long term, AgMnet+ members from PFNS, who have increased their research capacity and enhanced the teaching curricula, with Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) concepts and tools as a strong background, will have the potential to meet the needs of new generations of agricultural engineers and design solutions related to agrometeorology and plant production and protection.
b. We now provide public access to the information, skills and knowledge which used to be a privilege of individuals mostly working in specialized agencies. Additionally, we offer three free books related to agrometeorology and agroclimatology, ecophysiology and crop management intended for different audiences (from high school and university students to professionals) with the aim to introduce science to the educational process and the public.
c. All of the performed activities and achieved goals have strengthened the research excellence and capacity of PFNS-Serbia, in cooperation with BOKU-Austria and UNIFI-Italy. Through this project, PFNS capacity to design, plan and perform high level research programs has significantly increased, what is essential for a member of the ERA.
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"AgMnet+ network consists now of over 30 members. There were in total 33 expert trainings (ET 1-6) in which researchers from PFNS participated. Two Summer schools were organized: the first one was attended by 49 participants from 9 countries and the second one by 38 participants from 12 countries. University textbook “Agricultural Meteorology and Climatology” was published in English, Serbian, German and Italian. Furthermore, additional teaching material “Agrometeorological Modeling – Abiotic Stress and Plant Production” was published in Serbian and English and ""High School and Undergraduate Student’s Guide to the Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics"" in 4 languages. During the project lifetime, 40 guest lectures and 50 short-term scientific visits took place at PFNS, BOKU and UNIFI. Ph.D. students from the partner institutions were active in small study groups. Bachelor, master and PhD students (96 in total) took part in the “Problem Solver Challenge”. Altogether, 16 joint project proposals and COST actions were submitted, 18 joint scientific papers published and 26 joint conference participations. PFNS curricula have been significantly improved at BSc level and new master program has been introduced in both Serbian and English. The final Workshop all project results related to education (with the accent on its internationalisation), science (topics, projects and actions) and cooperation (established AgMnet+ network) were presented and discussed. All activities, results and achievements are publically available on the web page of the project, organized in separate segments (capacity building, networking, dissemination, education, science, cooperation and news)."
"Joint lectures, books, research publications, conference participation, farmers meetings and training programs are results of ""Establishment and Growth of the Open AgMnet+ Network"". It is the nucleus of the future cooperation, which will be conducted through activities in which PFNS will be included and through the newly introduced ""Serbian Society of Agrometeorology"". Improved ""Knowledge and Skills"" has led to new project proposals and COST actions, improved curricula at B.Sc. level, new textbooks for students to improve the teaching process and, as a final achievement, to introduction of a new master program at PFNS – ""Climate Smart Agriculture"", which will be taught in Serbian and English. Introduction of a ""problem solver"" approach and creative and critical thinking concept among PhD students and young researchers and working in small study groups was challenging and it resulted in connecting of the students and researchers and their joint publications. However, a remaining challenge is to establish more intensive communication with younger people (undergraduate and high schools students) using the newly published ""High School and Undergraduate Student’s Guide to the Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics"" and video material which is available on the project web page and distributed through social networks. Video lecturing, published training material and data sets which used to be a privilege of small groups of experts, multilanguage books, introduction of RRI at PFNS, hosting and giving lectures at European universities convinced us that we have the capacity to design, plan and perform high-level research programs and to be a part of the European Research Area now and in the future. We consider these achievements as some of the most important scientific and societal achievements of SERBIA FOR EXCELL project. The most important socio-economic impacts can be listed as follows: a) introduction of top scientific topics (climate change, extreme weather) into high school and university curricula; b) increase of public awareness by popular texts and links to important sources of information such as climate update or agricultural warnings; c) encouraging creative and critical thinking; d) overcome of language barrier by translating two books on German, Italian and Serbian; e) introduction of RRI tools and concepts at PFNS.
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Picture from the first Summer School
Picture from the Kick Off Meeting in the M01, Novi Sad, Serbia.