This project is conceived to overcome and mend all present “gaps” and to enable smart utilisation of existing opportunities by enhancing the Sciences of the Past research activities in Croatia and broader as we are not aware of the existence of a similar group in the region. To make this possible we advocate the following strategy, here explained through several critical steps.
The prerequisite step was to define the target research group that has the potential scientific capacity to perform at the European level. Lack of strategic specialisation and separation to a large number of small, almost one-member teams, is among the weakest points of the scientific structure in Croatia.
We united several groups from various disciplines such as Genetics, Biology, Geoarcheology, Anthropology and Archaeology with varying research experience, all related to the Sciences of the Past, into the CrEAMA Initiative to perform as one research unit. This was necessary in order to reach a critical mass of researchers able to boost human resources and knowledge infrastructure, and thus provide a self-sustainable existence. Uncertainty is a weak point in the Sciences of the Past when conclusions are made based on a single discipline approach. So, in the formation of the CrEAMA Initiative we were challenged to establish a MIT disciplinary approach that can provide holistic and more confident answers.
Our main research focus is on the case studies linked to the Eastern Adriatic(Croatia) and hypotheses related to Animal genetics, Plant genetics, Archaeogenetics and Zooarchaeology, along with the cultural and environmental contexts of human-animal interactions in the past. These cultural and environmental contexts include the geological contexts of samples and sites (Geoarchaeology and Geomorphology), the past floral associations (Archaeobotany) and biocultural practices of past peoples (Archaeology and Human Osteology). We are aware that a functional MIT disciplinary research is difficult to establish, but on the contrary,the potential benefits of a good holistic approach are immense.
We have developed a strategy to integrate Genetics into the Sciences of the Past because recent technological developments in Genetics offer additional information that challenge numerous old and new hypotheses established within the Sciences of the Past. Considering the number of archaeological remains available, integration and enhancement of Archaeogenetics provides a smart opportunity.
The specific activities have been designed in order to enhance and intensify long-term scientific performance at the applicant institution, ensuring that it reaches the academic, scientific and funding performance level of first quarter EU countries. This is a very ambitious goal that is impossible to reach without the level of intensive scientific collaborations that will integrate CrEAMA into the European Research Area (ERA). Within the MendTheGap exercise we have initiated a number of joint research activities (field case study work within workshops and summer schools, writing project proposals, paper writing, reports on proceedings co-authoring and editing, new technology education, short term scientific specialisations) with our Twinning partners, University of Cambridge, Cambridge (UK) and University of Pisa, Pisa (Italy).
The University of Cambridge is among the top ten World Universities, often voted the best European Higher Education and research organisation, particularly with a leading position in the Sciences of the Past. Colin Renfrew, a former Disney Professor of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute at the University of Cambridge coined the term “Archeogenetics” in 1999 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeogenetics) and has remained an advocate of the approaches adopted as the field developed both in Cambridge and elsewhere. His successor, Professor Graeme Barker similarly helped to promote the role of genetics in archaeological science in Cambridge, particularly in the study of horse domestication in Central Asia. Professor Martin Jones currently leads the George Pitt-Rivers Laboratory which is where Archaeogenetics has one of its bases in Cambridge.
University of Pisa is among the best 50 European Universities and at the same time strongly shares the interest in the history of the Eastern Adriatic. Both partners have previous research collaboration experience with some CrEAMA members. In addition, integration of scientific collaboration of all MendTheGap members with high-level experts has been planned through invited seminars, organisation of conferences and attendance of conferences for the CrEAMA Initiative members.
It is a general perception within Croatia that research connected to Sciences of the Past is difficult to commercialise. Here, we were additionally motivated to build an example demonstrating the contribution of the Sciences of the Past to the local and regional economy. Our starting assumption is that a MIT disciplinary group of experts, with the help of a professional SME, is capable of producing several exclusive high quality contents, targeted for the “Museum Collections of the Cultural Centre Vela Luka ” which would attract national and international tourists as well as locals. The action is strengthened by the fact that some members of the CrEAMA Initiative are employed at the above institutions. The main value in the proposed activity is to build an example where Croatia extends its touristic offerings to a more sophisticated level. At the same time, active collaboration with the “Croatian Natural History Museum” and the “Museum Collections of the Cultural Centre Vela Luka” provide a good stronghold for further dissemination of the project to the wide public audience.
However, we consider dissemination to the general public an important part of the project as it provides transparency of the financial EU support, while also providing an interesting educational perspective to EU/world citizens.
MendTheGap aims to fill the spatial, scientific and economic gap in the Eastern Adriatic by boosting capacities in the Sciences of the past utilising the unique location-specific characteristics and advantages and thus becoming a positive example of Smart specialisation across the EU.