The Academia Europaea’s 5th Knowledge Hub launched in Tbilisi (Georgia) in April this year. In an interview with the Hub’s Academic Director and Professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, David Prangishvili, we find out about plans for the Hub and the reaction it has received so far.
Georgia’s reaction to AE’s new Hub
The Academia Europaea’s 5th Hub launched in Tbilisi in April this year. What reaction has the Hub received in Georgia and what impact do you think the Hub could have?
“The launch of the Academia Europaea Tbilisi Regional Hub was met with great enthusiasm by the general public, and of course, by the academic community of Georgia. It was considered a highly significant event in academic and political terms.
It is also a recognition of the European identity of Georgian science and culture, and I see it as an essential step towards Georgia’s return to the European family. The Tbilisi Hub is expected to have a strong impact on the internationalisation of Georgian science, as well as on the reclamation of Tbilisi’s status as the centre of intellectual life in the South Caucasus, at the boarder of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.”
The Hub’s priorities
What has been the focus in the first few months of opening and what are the Hub’s priorities in the coming year?
“The Hub will promote education and research in all branches of sciences. However, the main priority is the development of multidisciplinary scientific activities related to biological, cultural, linguistic and ecological diversity in the South Caucasus. Such a goal is determined by the growing interest in the links between biological and cultural diversity and the expansion of the concept of biocultural diversity into an object of academic interest. The Caucasus offers a perfect opportunity for such studies: it is the highest linguistic diversity area in Europe and one of the richest and most diverse wilderness areas on Earth. Finally, there is high-level expertise in the region on human and natural sciences suitable for understanding links between nature and culture and the inter-relationships between humans and environment.
Essential elements of the strategic plan of the Hub are clusters of excellence, which will enable multidisciplinary and international scientific networking. They will be developed through focused conferences and seminars. Three clusters of excellence have been established so far:
1. Human Cultures, Health and Microbes
2. Ponto-Caspian Connections: Climate, Ecology and Human Evolution
3. Eastern Christianity: History, Theology, Cultural Influences, and Religious Practices.
The three clusters have already started their activities. The problems of Eastern Christianity were discussed in June (20th and 24th) at the Distinguished Seminar Series (DSS) of the Hub by prominent experts in Comparative Religion and Caucasiology from Israel, Hungary and Georgia.
The next seminar from the DSS series will be devoted to the interplay between human and microbial cultures and domestication of microorganisms; microorganisms and human health is the major theme of the international conference Microbes and Their Viruses: Ecology, Diversity, Applications organised by the Hub at the end of September in collaboration with the universities of Bergen and Yerevan. Ponto-Caspian connections will be the priority of the Hub activities in 2020. Actually, our motto for next year is “Black Sea 2020”.”
The impact of mobility on my life and career
You started your career in what was the USSR, and then moved to Germany and France during the course of your career. How has mobility impacted on your life and your career?
“Indeed, I have spent my scientific career in different countries: in Tbilisi (USSR), where I was born and educated, Moscow, Germany and France. Such mobility was mainly due to my scientific interests. My relocation to Germany, for instance, was caused by my interest in the then newly discovered third kingdom of life, the Archaea. The most advanced research on this topic was conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry and the University of Regensburg. Later on, I developed an interest in the viral diversity on our planet which brought me to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the cradle of research on prokaryotic viruses.
Moving around for work eventually allowed me to fulfil my research objectives and to develop my personal preferences and expertise. My research interests include a broad range of activities, from field work in extreme geothermal environments to the isolation from such habitat of new viruses, their description, and ultimately, the molecular biological characterisation of virus-host interactions.
Throughout my career I have enjoyed great benefits of international interdisciplinary cooperation and I believe that the research that generates new knowledge can be stimulated by facilitating the mobility of scientists across countries.”
13th September 2019. For further information please contact Juliet Davies, Executive Officer firstname.lastname@example.org