From the history of learned societies in Slovakia

The first serious attempt to establish a learned society was the proposal of Matej Bel (1684-1749, a Hungarian-Slovak polyhistor and a prominent European scientist – he was also a role model for Denis Diderot), which he submitted to the Austrian imperial administration. The intention was to create a hungarian scholarly society called Societas Litteraria. The draft statute of the society emphasized the meeting of experts in the group of literary, legal and natural sciences. The aim was also to publish the scientific journal Observationes posonienses. Bel’s initiative was not successful, the proposal was forgotten, it was not reminded until the publication in 1965.

Efforts to establish a learned society continued even after the initiative of Matej Bel. Gottlieb Windisch founded in 1761 a learned society in Bratislava with emphasis on literary issues. The company existed for twelve years and published professional magazines in German. In 1787 the evangelical Erudita Societas Slavica was established and in 1792 catholic Slovak learned society. The duration of both societes was short. Two regionally learned societies were also established: The Learned Society of Malohont (1808) on the initiative of Ján Feješ and The Learned Society of the Mining Area (1810) on the initiative of Bohuslav Tablic. Since similar activities arose throughout Hungary, in 1825, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was established.

After the opening of the National House in Martin in 1890, Andrej Kmeť made significant efforts to establish the Slovak learned society (A. Kmeť even used the name Slovak Academy of Sciences). However, the founding general assembly with 30 founding and 141 full members in the library of the National House in Martin on April 24, 1893 ultimately only led to the establishment of the Slovak Museum Society.

In 1926, the Šafárik Scholarly Society (Učená spoločnosť Šafárikova, USŠ) was established on the premises of Comenius University in Bratislava. Its intention was scientific research of Slovakia, Subcarpathian Russia and the whole of Czechoslovakia and Slavdom in general. USŠ guaranteed scientific work, publishing and lecture activities. USŠ published a scientific journal called Bratislava. It also published USŠ Workshops, USŠ Lectures, USŠ Sources, Slovak Archives and Poems by P. J. Šafárik. The importance and contribution of the USŠ was immense. Thanks to the cooperation with the university academic environment, USŠ also had a role in organizing scientific life in Slovakia and the development of natural, medical, technical and social sciences. USŠ was abolished on March 24, 1939 after the establishment of the Slovak Republic. The property of the USŠ belonged to the newly established Slovak learned society.

The Slovak Scholarly Society (Slovenská učená spoločnosť, SUS) published several volumes of the encyclopedia Slovenská vlastiveda. The encyclopedia mainly mapped the nature, history, society, language and literature of Slovakia. SUS was the gestor of new scientific journals such as Linguistica Slovaca, Historica Slovaca and Physiographica Slovaca. The SUS to some extent prepared the conditions for the establishment of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAVU) in 1942, although it formally existed until the end of World War II. SAVU was not only a learned society, but also an institution with scientific workplaces. It was the direct predecessor of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) founded in 1953.

In addition to scientific workplaces, the SAS also had a choir of SAS academics and members correspondents of the SAS, which served as a learned society. Academics and members correspondents were to be elected from among the most prominent scientists from all the institutions that conducted the research. In many cases, they were the most important scientists, but the influence of political power was inescapable.

On January 12, 1990, the Slovak National Council approved an amendment to the Act, which fundamentally changed the position of the SAS. The General Assembly of the SAS (academics and members correspondents of the SAS) ceased to be a representative body of the entire Slovak scientific community and a Slovak learned society. The wording on SAS as a top Slovak scientific institution was deleted from the law. Academics and members correspondents of the SAS relatively quickly disappeared from the consciousness of the younger generations of scientists and society in particular. (Academics were not abolished in Hungary after 1989. Many scientists today believe that this was a sensible decision because of the continuity of scientific excellence and general awareness of it in society.) Slovakia was left without a society that would bring together the best scientists in Slovakia to support science and knowledge.

Slovak Academic Society

The first attempt to improve this situation was the establishment of the Slovak Academic Society (SAS) on June 13, 1998. SAS was registered as a civic association of important personalities of Slovak science. Despite the unquestionably correct goals and scientific significance of the founding members, the society’s activity clearly ceased in recent years.

Scholarly society of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

The adoption of Act 133 of 19 February 2002 on SAS was crucial for the development of learned societies in Slovakia. Pursuant to Article 3 §1, the SAS may establish a learned society of the Academy as an honorary body of the Academy, whose members may become important scientists of the Academy, who have enriched science in the Slovak Republic and abroad. Important scientists from abroad can also become members.

On 30 October 2002, the SAS Assembly approved the Statute of the Learned Society of the SAS (Učená spoločnosť – UčS SAS). The statute was updated in 2003, 2004 and 2007. Pursuant to the law, only scientists whose activities were related to the SAS were elected to the UČS SAS, even if they were not its employees. This led to the fact that there were not many important domestic scientists who worked at universities and colleges. However, university officials at the time insisted on this restriction.

The inaugural assembly of the USS SAS was on March 19, 2003. Twenty founding members were elected by the SAS Assembly on 11 February and 18 March 2003. On April 20, 2004, the number of members expanded to 45. The first chairman (2003-2005) was physician prof. MUDr. Branislav Lichardus, DrSc. The other chairmen were the virologist prof. MUDr. Fedor Čiampor, DrSc. (2005-2009), physicist prof. RNDr. Vladimír Bužek (2009-2013) and chemist prof. RNDr. Jozef Noga, DrSc. (2013-2017).

The Learned Society of Slovakia

On 1 July 2018, the new Statute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences entered into force in connection with Act no. 243/2017 on a public research institution approved by the National Council of the Slovak Republic, which significantly amended the SAS Act. Article XI of the Statute of the SAS defines the Learned Society of Slovakia (Učená spoločnosť Slovenska, UČSS) as an honorary body of the Academy and states that the society operated until 30.6.2018 under the name Learned Society of the SAS. Membership in UčSS is no longer tied to activities in SAS. The learned society supports the development of science and the dissemination of scientific knowledge, participates in the representation of Slovak science at home and abroad, comments on ethical research issues, monitors the application of research results in practice, cooperates with learned companies at home and abroad, comments on basic issues and legal norms in research, development, innovation and education, takes a proactive approach to the direction of research in the Slovak Republic. The statute of the UČSS was approved by the Scientific Council of the SAS and entered into force on 19 September 2018. UčSS members use the designation Academic of UČSS.

Slovakia in 2019 – a society that does not perceive quality of science, research and education as the most important condition for the development and survival of society

Low financial support from the state and the private sector; non-systematic distribution of financial support for research and education influenced by short-term / local political and economic interests; low performance, especially in top international research; low level of penetration of the world research area and insufficient mobility; a high degree of pretense of scientific quality instead of a healthy competitive and motivating environment and hierarchical support for excellence; an oversized network of universities and insufficient development of the quality of education; so-called academic democracy, in which decisions are made in an inadequate manner contrary to the academic and professional qualifications of decision-makers; ambiguities in relation to education, free research and the responsibility of scientists towards society. These are essential problems. Most of the scientists in Slovakia did not even know UčSS. Yet, it has an important role to play in the further development of Slovakia. It must begin to adequately perceive its responsibility towards Slovakia, it must convincingly explain to politicians, managers and citizens what is the real condition for sensible development in Slovakia.

Peter Moczo: Contribution of the President of the Learned Society of Slovakia in the publication on the 25th anniversary of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic, 2019