The year 2023 has been as successful as usual for BSC. We did routine things and tried out new ones too. The project portfolio was kept steadily abundant varying around 10 simultaneously managed projects with some phasing out (DESIRA, SYSTEMIC, GreenHort, CUPP) and some new ones being commenced (PREMIERE, PlusCHANGE, RestPoll). The travels to project meetings, conferences and field research sites resumed after the Covid-19 pandemic and the number of our business trips reached 60. BSC researchers took 76 flights to various European destinations, covered 125 000 flight kilometres, and contributed to 30 tons of CO2 emissions. Until the fossil aviation fuel is replaced with hydrogen or other renewables, we tried hard to compensate our worrying carbon footprint by enhancing our positive impacts on the field of innovation, academic discipline, economic development, and social wellbeing. Our publication pace kept steady with seven academic papers published open access and more papers conceived for the next year. Our Horizon Europe success rate was extraordinarily high reaching 50% of funded proposals, although only two applications were submitted in the spring leg. At the end of the year three more applications were submitted to the ERANET programme.
To enhance impact, most of our projects include a component of multi-actor collaboration in living labs, innovation hubs or similar kind of arrangements. In joint projects we do practice interdisciplinary research with agronomists, food technologists, environmental scientists, political scientists, and researchers from other fields. Many of our field research activities, such as case studies, workshops and focus groups are cooperative by nature and involve reciprocal ties with businesses, NGOs, municipalities, civic groups, and other actors. Variety of research activities happen in networks with other academic and non-academic partners, and networking is a key mechanism for our research outputs and new knowledge created to generate further social and economic impacts, even if small ones.
In 2023 we experienced significant changes and advancement in personnel. In March, Mikelis was promoted to tenure professorship position at Riga Stradiņš University (RSU), meanwhile retaining a flexible arrangement with BSC. In spring BSC team was joined by Maija and Elīna, who brought a valuable and needed human geography and environmental engineering expertise to our competency’s portfolio. We also hired two Ukrainian research assistants – Svetlana and Yuliia, who were employed in CIRCLE project. In fall, Oksana defended her PhD thesis in sociology, Ilze enrolled a PhD programme at RSU, and Lūcija started studies in two master programmes at the University of Latvia, in parallel to research work at BSC. Anda accomplished her stewardship of CUPP and GreenHort projects and smoothly switched efforts to recently started projects. At the end of the year Sandra decided to resign from an active research affiliation with BSC after 25 years of her merited international career and contribution. Sandra will try out new life opportunities in Australia and we look forward to continuing collaboration across the hemispheres in other formats.
In 2023 BSC got stronger institutionally as well. In September we concluded a consortium agreement with RSU which opened new avenues for support and cooperation such as access to RSU research infrastructure and possibilities to initiate joint research activities. The year ended by electing Emils as a new director of BSC. This election also meant an elaboration and adoption of important formal regulative documents of BSC, such as BSC Regulation of a Research Institute and BSC Inclusion, Wellbeing and Gender Equality Plan. What formerly has been a tacit modus operandi presuming that in BSC everybody understands everything now has gained a formal script basis.
Personally, for me as a founder and long-standing director of BSC the year was marked by transmitting managerial responsibilities and continued implementation of a principle of a shared freedom and responsibility in science. Sharing the complexity of research and management – from financial input generation to scientific output creation, from academic capitalism in competing for funds to academic socialism in using the funds for beneficial impacts, from designing our own institutional routines to authoring their implementation – is quite unique not only among the research institutes in Latvia but also at European scale.
I am confident that the year 2024 will be another good year for BSC whichever cerebral hemisphere hosts our academic capitalists and academic socialists and whichever hemisphere of the planet we connect to. Let the good intentions and deeds of BSC to land any place across the rounded surfaces.