Ljubljana related

15 Jun 2019, 10:05 AM

STA, 14 June 2019 - The Slovenia-Russia commission for trade and scientific cooperation detected opportunities to expand cooperation at a session in Bled on Friday, in particular in IT, transport, research and agriculture.

Addressing reporters at the conclusion of the session, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Russian Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Konstantin Noskov said that the commission was producing concrete results and projects.

"The commission is very important in identifying new business opportunities. Through it, we're doing what is necessary to enhance cooperation between businesses in the two countries," Cerar said.

He said that Russia remained a major trading partner for Slovenia, ranking 4th in terms of Slovenian foreign direct investment abroad and 9th in terms of exports.

The volume of bilateral merchandise trade has been increasing since 2017, amounting to EUR 1.16 billion last year, which Cerar said was encouraging.

He expects trade will increase further, but he said "it will be a special challenge to achieve a right balance", after Slovenia posted a trade deficit in the first quarter of this year for the first time.

The reason for the drop in Slovenia's exports recently was that Slovenian companies were locating their production in Russia.

Talks with the Slovenian companies doing or planning to do business in Russia "showed realistic opportunities to increase the volume of business", said Cerar.

The potential was identified in the fields of information technologies, transport, scientific research, agriculture and enhanced cooperation with Russian regions.

Reviewing the implementation of major projects, the commission established successful realisation of six IT projects, and added five new projects in the fields of health research, energy efficiency, ICT, agriculture and education to the programme.

Cerar underscored the need to continue constructive dialogue between the EU and Russia to reduce negative effects of restrictive measures on economic cooperation.

"Russia is a European neighbour and an important trading partner. It's key to foster a relationship of trust through regular dialogue and cooperation", said Cerar, adding that Slovenia and Russia had that trust.

"We see current cooperation between the two countries quite positively", Noskov said, describing Slovenia as a reliable and constructive partner, and noting good prospects to boost cooperation.

Noskov had expected the session to mainly seek to solve companies' problems, but it turned out the cooperation was good and that there were new concrete proposals to enhance it.

Russian companies are aspiring to do business with Slovenian businesses as well, he said, noting the Russian railways and the bank Sberbank were especially active in this respect.

All our stories on Slovenia and Russia can be found here

07 May 2019, 13:00 PM

STA, 6 May 2019 - A team that also featured five Slovenian researches has published a ground-breaking cell differentiation paper that can potentially help revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine, Slovenia's Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) has reported.

Contributing to the paper, published in the journal Molecular Cell, were London-based researchers Miha Modic and Jernej Ule, Gregor Rot of the University of Zurich, Tjaša Lepko from the Helmholtz Centre in Munich and Boris Roglej of IJS.

The researchers described the regulatory network explaining the starting events leading to an effective differentiation of stem cells and the development of an embryo. The findings are considered groundbreaking for the understanding of cell differentiation processes.

The researches were examining the molecular mechanism of the differentiation of pluripotent cells, which differ from adult stem cells in that they are capable of differentiation into any cell of the human body.

Induced pluripotent cells can then reprogramme any cell of a person's body into induced stem cells. These can in turn be differentiated into all cell types, for instance also the patient's own beta cells that produce insulin, meaning they have the potential to revolutionise personalised regenerative medicine.

A complex series of studies allowed the researchers to discover in what way paraspeckles, irregularly shaped compartments of the cell that do not exist in the nuclei of pluripotent cells, are formed during the differentiation of stem cells and what role is played by RNA (Ribonucleic acid)-networks and RNA-binding proteins.

According to IJS, paraspeckles are the new "rising stars" in the field of cellular biology that can potentially help explain a number of conditions in the human body but are poorly researched.

Along with the utility for regenerative drugs, the understanding of these regulatory networks could also shed new light on various conditions, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

The paper, titled Cross-Regulation between TDP-43 and Paraspeckles Promotes Pluripotency-Differentiation Transition, can be read here (PDF).

30 Apr 2019, 22:13 PM

STA, 30 April 2019 - The Ažman Computer Centre was inaugurated on Wednesday at the National Institute of Chemistry. The result of years of planning, the final upgrade to the Institute's Theoretical Section will provide support to theoretical and experimental research studies, help with personnel training, and ensure high-quality performance.

Gregor Anderluh, director of the Institute, said that such infrastructure was crucial to the work of nearly all of their departments, and that by inaugurating the centre, Slovenia was successfully keeping up with the times. He also emphasised the centre's importance in facilitating research and contributing to the Institute's international presence.

The investment was worth 150,000 euros, with various departments of the Institute and the Slovenian Research Agency helping to finance its equipment.

Anderluh added that this year they plan to acquire a cryo-electron microscope that will generate massive quantities of data, highlighting the need for such infrastructure. He believes their computing capacity will most likely need to be further expanded in the coming year or two.

The Computer Centre is part of the Pregl Research Centre, founded in 2013, that houses a specialised area with a state-of-the-art cooling system of up to 175kW.

The Pregl Centre is also suitable for the future expansion of computing capacities to 5,000 computer cores and its inclusion into the national supercomputing network.

Jernej Stare, who was responsible for the upgrade, explained that the centre was now made up of 20 servers, each containing two 24-core AMD Epyc processors.

Each of the computers has 64 GB of RAM. This in total means the Institute has 960 physical cores at its disposal, each having two virtual cores, he noted.

The computer centre was named after Andrej Ažman, Slovenian-born quantum chemistry pioneer. Despite his untimely death, Ažman published 171 research papers during his lifetime, and was the first member of the Institute to have a paper published in the journal Nature, professor Jože Koller said as he gave a presentation on the scientist's life and work.

25 Apr 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 24 April 2019 - Slovenian researchers and scientists held a protest and a public debate in Ljubljana on Wednesday in a bid to draw the attention of the public and decision-makers to what they see as a flawed financing system which is driving cut-throat competition in science.

 

Duška Knežević Hočevar from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, said that she had noticed despondency and unsportsmanlike competition growing among fellow scientists over the past decade.

She blamed the trend on quantified oversight and short-term project funding of science. "Science is a long-term activity that requires peace ... But in reality we are like nomads, jumping from one project to another. We spend a lot of time on project applications and paperwork."

Knežević Hočevar, who moderated the debate at the Old Ljubljana Power Station, said that the financing system which is based on short-term projects was misguided, because the rivalry it produced affected the relationships between and within the institutions involved.

As a result, the researchers and scientists, instead of focusing on their research, compete with each other or look for publications in journals that would score them more points. This in turn preserves the funding system as it is.

Marko Fonovič from the Jožef Stefan Institute, the country's leading research institution, challenged the government as to why it sought so hard to wriggle out of its responsibility to fund science, arguing that Slovenia, in its desire for business-based funding of science, "has gone further than the most capitalist countries".

He offered several reasons for that, including the prevailing belief that only physical labour counted as work. He illustrated this with the saying that children should learn so they did not have to work.

The participants in the debate offered several proposals to improve the state of science, including that all ministries should fund science rather than just the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, because everyone benefits from scientific advances.

Andraž Stožer from the Maribor Faculty of Medicine argued for funding of basic science and research, including such that does not appear to have applicative effects at first sight. He said that history was full of discoveries that did not turn out to be extremely useful until decades later.

The debate also pointed to the problem of poor communication about the importance of science and research. Stožer said that part of the blame lay with the scientists themselves, and part with the education system, which he said was based too much on dry listing of facts.

After the discussion, participants marched to protest outside the headquarters of the ministries of economy and education and science. The annual protest was held ahead of the global March for Science on 4 May.

For the past three years, Slovenian scientists and researchers have been calling for the establishment of a high-quality and transparent evaluation procedure, increasing science funding to 1% of the national budget, and for a set timetable for public calls for national research projects.

25 Apr 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 24 April 2019 - Slovenian researchers and scientists held a protest and a public debate in Ljubljana on Wednesday in a bid to draw the attention of the public and decision-makers to what they see as a flawed financing system which is driving cut-throat competition in science.

 

Duška Knežević Hočevar from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, said that she had noticed despondency and unsportsmanlike competition growing among fellow scientists over the past decade.

She blamed the trend on quantified oversight and short-term project funding of science. "Science is a long-term activity that requires peace ... But in reality we are like nomads, jumping from one project to another. We spend a lot of time on project applications and paperwork."

Knežević Hočevar, who moderated the debate at the Old Ljubljana Power Station, said that the financing system which is based on short-term projects was misguided, because the rivalry it produced affected the relationships between and within the institutions involved.

As a result, the researchers and scientists, instead of focusing on their research, compete with each other or look for publications in journals that would score them more points. This in turn preserves the funding system as it is.

Marko Fonovič from the Jožef Stefan Institute, the country's leading research institution, challenged the government as to why it sought so hard to wriggle out of its responsibility to fund science, arguing that Slovenia, in its desire for business-based funding of science, "has gone further than the most capitalist countries".

He offered several reasons for that, including the prevailing belief that only physical labour counted as work. He illustrated this with the saying that children should learn so they did not have to work.

The participants in the debate offered several proposals to improve the state of science, including that all ministries should fund science rather than just the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, because everyone benefits from scientific advances.

Andraž Stožer from the Maribor Faculty of Medicine argued for funding of basic science and research, including such that does not appear to have applicative effects at first sight. He said that history was full of discoveries that did not turn out to be extremely useful until decades later.

The debate also pointed to the problem of poor communication about the importance of science and research. Stožer said that part of the blame lay with the scientists themselves, and part with the education system, which he said was based too much on dry listing of facts.

After the discussion, participants marched to protest outside the headquarters of the ministries of economy and education and science. The annual protest was held ahead of the global March for Science on 4 May.

For the past three years, Slovenian scientists and researchers have been calling for the establishment of a high-quality and transparent evaluation procedure, increasing science funding to 1% of the national budget, and for a set timetable for public calls for national research projects.

11 Apr 2019, 12:26 PM

STA, 5 April 2019 - The University of Maribor and the company SAB-LS signed a contract in Maribor on Friday, April 5, on the launch of the first Slovenian nanosatellite into orbit. Trisat is to fly into space on a light European Vega rocket that is to be launched from French Guiana in August.

 

Trisat has been developed at the Maribor Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in cooperation with the Slovenian company Skylabs.

According to the chancellor of the Maribor university, Zdravko Kačič, the launch of the nanosatellite will be an important step in the internationalisation of the Slovenian space industry and a recognition for its technology.

"It is a proof that a student project can develop into an important project for the Slovenian industry and environment," he said.

"Nanosatellites are an important segment in the present-day space industry, because they can bring new technology into space in a cost-efficient and quick way. The new technology can thus be evaluated much quicker and cheaper, which reduces financial risks in this field," he said.

Trisat, weighing only 4.4 kilos, is capable of taking multispectral images of Earth in short-wave infrared spectrum with a camera unlike any other in space at the moment.

It will be deployed at the altitude of 500 kilometres in a Sun-synchronous orbit by the Vega rocket launched by Arianespace, a company developing launch solutions for the European Space Agency (ESA).

The rocket will carry some 50 satellites, including another Slovenian satellite that is larger than Trisat, called Nemo HD, which has been developed by Vesolje-SI, the Slovenian centre of excellence for space sciences and technologies.

The company SAB-LS will act as Arianespace's subcontractor for deploying nanosatellites as part of the ESA's programme Small Spacecraft Mission Service.

The signing of the contract, on Aptril 5, was also attended by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, who said the move set the course for the development of Slovenian technology and proved that Slovenia was an important partner in space technology and thus also of the ESA.

Slovenia became an associate member of the ESA at the end of 2016.

The head of the Trisat project, Iztok Kramberger, stressed that Trisat, whose lifespan has been estimated at six years, was almost entirely a product of Slovenian know-how. It has been developed and manufactured in Slovenia, except for the solar panels, he noted.

You can learn more about the project here

08 Apr 2019, 11:25 AM

STA, 5 April 2019 - Physicist Jure Žalohar has combined a number of seismic studies to come up with a new way to potentially predict earthquakes in the future. His theory suggests earthquakes are not coincidental but are caused by synchronised processes in the Earth's crust.

 

Žalohar's theory was introduced in his book The Omega-Theory: A New Physics of Earthquakes, which was released in May 2018.

It is based on a number of studies conducted by seismology, geophysics, and maths experts in the past two decades and could prove effective if put into practice through an IT system.

Seismology or the study of earthquakes tried to forecast earthquakes in the 20th century by taking into account various precursors, such as animal behaviour, regional transformations of topography, changes in the speed of primary and secondary seismic waves, or radon gas emissions.

These efforts were only partially successful, with many studies focusing on possible causes for earthquakes, but none of them coming up with the exact way of predicting them.

In 1997, journal Science published an article saying that earthquakes could not be forecast. The bold claim did not discourage scientists from continuing their research.

They succeeded in developing two theories; the theory of the Earth's tectonic plate movement and the theory of the epicentre mechanism. The majority of earthquakes occur at or near the boundaries between tectonic plates.

Žalohar's Omega theory, which could be described as a rotation theory of earthquakes, is based on the already established phenomenon of the plates' splits tending to be parallel and intersecting.

According to Žalohar, the plates are "enormous omega cells", experiencing earthquake sequences stemming from parallel splits, with the famous golden ratio determining the number of those splits. Earthquakes are thus connected between themselves and affected by the Earth's rotation.

The Omega theory suggests that earth tremors are not coincidental but a result of "highly synchronised processes" in the Earth's crust, which indicates they could be predicted.

The software programme T-Tecto was created on the basis of the theory, currently providing only one model of earthquake forecasting which includes a 64-day prediction.

An IT centre that could build on that and further develop the method would require additional funding and special training for monitoring personnel, said Žalohar.

The ability to forecast earthquakes would also entail potential ethical issues in case it was not confined to authorised organisations.

All our stories about earthwuakes and Slovenia can be found here

25 Mar 2019, 08:49 AM

STA, 22 March 2019 - Slovenia's top science and research institution, the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), will mark its 70th anniversary over the course of the coming week, having started with an open day last Saturday, March 23. Between Monday and Friday, top researchers from across the globe will speak in Ljubljana about their work at the cutting edge of science.

Perhaps the top event of the coming week will be a talk by top robotics expert Vilay Kumar, the dean of Penn Engineering, a graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.

Taking place as part of the main ceremony marking the IJS's 70th anniversary on Wednesday, Kumar's talk about flying robots will be "very interesting visually," IJS head Jadran Lenarčič has told the STA.

The anniversary week will start with an open day tomorrow, allowing the public to take one of several tours of the institute's laboratories.

On Monday, a day after the actual birthday of the late Jožef Stefan (1835-1893), considered one of the top Slovenian scientists, the 27th annual Jožef Stefan Days will officially open.

Zdenka Badovinac, the director of Modern Galerija, will deliver a talk ahead of the opening of an exhibition titled Irwin: NSK Guards and Processions.

The next day, Bart De Moor of KU Leuven will talk about the role of new technologies and data science in biology in the future, while Rosario Rizzuto, a rector at the University of Padua, will talk about calcium signalling in cells.

After the main ceremony on Wednesday, Thursday will feature a talk by Jean-Claude André, the inventor of 3D printing, while the Jožef Stefan Days will wrap up with a talk by Geoff Webb of Monash University, a top data scientist.

The institute will also name the winner of an annual competition for young researchers. This year, the winner will get between EUR 300,000 and 350,000 to set up their own lab.

Yo ucan see more details of the programme here, while all our stories on research in Slovenia are here

04 Feb 2019, 17:00 PM

STA, 4 February 2019 - Slovenska Matica, the nation's oldest cultural and scientific society, is celebrating its 155th anniversary with an open house on Monday. A number of lectures, debates and presentations are taking place. President Borut Pahor addressed the main ceremony.

 

Slovenia is confronted with the question of how to build its national character without it turning to national arrogance or nationalism, Pahor said in his address, adding that this was a sensitive and tough intellectual and political issue.

At the same time, Slovenians need to ask themselves "how can we build stable pillars of sovereignty without creating the impression that we started to doubt the European idea and were getting ready for its downfall".

He pointed to the important role Slovenska Matica played in this context and noted that these issues needed to be addressed with great sensitivity, especially by politicians.

Slovenska Matica president Aleš Gabrič said in his address that the society wanted to continue to do the work it set out to do 155 years ago: "to bring into the treasure trove of the national cultural wealth that what makes the nation its best".

The society was established in Ljubljana with donations of academics, tradesmen and entrepreneurs with the objective to print academic and scientific books in Slovenian.

Slovenian was not a language of academia, as Slovenian lands were a part of the Austrian Empire up until its dissolution following World War I.

When it was established, the society's mission was to raise the level of education across the nation and create Slovenian vocabulary in a variety of fields.

The society's heyday was in the early 20th century, when the books it published reached high circulation and the society nurtured frequent contacts with universities and academic societies from London to St Petersburg.

Today, Slovenska Matica is the second oldest Slovenian publisher after Mohorjeva Družba. It organises science meetings and conferences addressing issues faced by the Slovenian culture and society. It is fully funded by the state.

31 Jan 2019, 19:20 PM

STA, 31 January 2019 - The National Assembly passed legislative amendments on Thursday which transpose the EU directive setting down the conditions of entry and residence of third-country citizens for the purposes of research, studies and training.

The directive, which entered into force in May 2016, should have been translated into national law by member countries by 23 May 2018. Missing the deadline, Slovenia has already received a reprimand from Brussels.

The directive also deals with the entry of third-country nationals for the purposes of voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing.

Education Ministry State Secretary Jernej Štromajer said that the amendments to the research and development activity act entailed only minor changes.

The amendments were passed by unanimous vote, but many MPs said they expected much more from a bill reforming the act more thoroughly which is already in the pipeline.

However, the Left abstained from the vote, airing misgivings about the elimination of certain proofs in acquiring residence permits for third-country citizens hosted by research agencies.

The EU standards can be found in many languages and formats here

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