Mission of the CAS
The Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) was established by Act No. 283/1992 Coll. as the Czech successor of the former Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. It is set up as a complex of 54 public research institutions. The Academy employs over 8,000 employees, more than a half of whom are researchers with university degrees.
The primary mission of the CAS and its institutes is to conduct research in a broad spectrum of the natural, technical and social sciences and the humanities. This research, whether highly specialised or interdisciplinary in nature, aims to advance developments in scientific knowledge at the international level, while also taking into account the specific needs of both the Czech society and the national culture. Researchers of the Academy institutes also participate in education, particularly through doctoral study programmes for young researchers and by teaching at universities as well. The Academy also fosters collaboration with applied research and industry. The integration of the Czech science into the international context is being promoted by means of numerous joint international research projects and through the exchange of scientists with counterpart institutions abroad.
The supreme self-governing body of the CAS is the Academy Assembly, two-thirds of which is composed of representatives of all Academy institutes, the remaining third being representatives of universities, state administration, business circles, and other notable personalities. The executive body of the Academy is the Academy Council headed by the President of the CAS. The Council for Sciences is primarily engaged in setting science policy of the Academy. Members of each of these Academy bodies are elected for a four-year period. Academy Evaluation Committees, which correspond in their professional fields to respective science sections of the Academy, perform an independent assessment of the quality of research and research objectives of the individual Academy institutes.
The CAS is financed primarily from the state budget. The pattern of research funding at the Academy conforms to current international standards. In addition to basic institutional financing of the research objectives of the Academy institutes, target-oriented financing is being more widely practised to carry out research projects and grant projects selected on the basis of public competition. The CAS was the first institution in the Czech Republic to establish its own Grant Agency which financially supports research projects selected through a peer-review procedure involving reviewers from abroad. The individual Academy institutes obtain additional financial resources by participating in national as well as international research programmes.
The CAS has also been assigned financial responsibility for 71 specialised Czech scientific societies associated with the Council of Scientific Societies.
The Czech Academy of Sciences in its work continues the research traditions and mission not only of the former Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences but also of its predecessors. The oldest long-lasting learned society was the Royal Czech Society of Sciences (1784–1952) which encompassed both the humanities and the natural sciences. Among its founders were filologist Josef Dobrovský, historian Gelasius Dobner, and mathematician and the founder of Prague University Observatory, Joseph Stepling; later it was headed by historian František Palacký.
As early as 1861–1863 Jan Evangelista Purkyně proposed in his treatise Academia the establishment of an autonomous non-university scientific institution associating research institutes representing the main fields of the science of that time. This idea of an institution engaged in interdisciplinary research corresponds with the concept and structure of the present Academy of Sciences.
By the end of the 19th century, language-differentiated scientific institutions arose in this country: the Czech Academy of Science and the Arts (1890–1952, founding charter) and the Association for the Fostering of German Science, Arts and Literature in Bohemia (1891–1945) were established nearly simultaneously. The Czech Academy of Science and the Arts was founded owing to the significant financial support from the Czech architect and builder Josef Hlávka who became its first President. The aim of this institution was to promote the development of Czech science and literature and to support Czech arts. The most important work of this Academy was its publication activities. Scholarships and financial support were also provided and smaller research units arose upon its initiative as well.
After the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 other scientific institutions were established, such as the Masaryk Academy of Labour and autonomous state institutes, such as the Slavonic, Oriental and Archaelogical Institutes. Robust international relationships of Czech research institutions culminated in their affiliation with the International Union of Academies and the International Research Council.
After the totalitarian regime came to power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, all hitherto main scientific non-university institutions and learned societies were dissolved and instead the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences was founded (1953–1992), comprising both a complex of research institutes and a learned society. Despite having been subjected to heavy ideological pressure until the fall of this regime in 1989, Czech science was nevertheless able to maintain its creative energy in a number of instances and find its way to the world scientific community (although there were disparities with the various fields of sciences at different periods of the regime). This fact was made evident, among others, by the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Jaroslav Heyrovský in 1959 and by the wordlwide recognition attained by Otto Wichterle for his discovery of contact lenses. Otto Wichterle became the first President of the Academy after the revival of democracy in this country. Among other outstanding representatives of Czech science who worked at the Academy in the past, worthy of singular mention are mathematician Eduard Čech, theoretical physicist Václav Votruba, geophysicist Vít Kárník, physiologist Vilém Laufberger and philosopher and co-author of Charter 77 Jan Patočka, to name at least a few.