Prof. Maciej Żylicz on Prof. Maciej W. Grabski

Maciej Żylicz


Professor Maciej W. Grabski passed away on 12 February 2016, leaving us with a sense that he was one of those exceptional people who cannot be replaced. Professor was a man of high calibre, cast from a pre-war mould. He enjoyed considerable authority based on his broad intellectual horizons, concern for the ethical aspect of any activity, whether academic or in other fields, and also independent thinking. He was a charismatic personality, someone whom others wanted to hear, a superb, witty speaker. For 13 years (from 1992 to 2005) he was the president of the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP), becoming the primary author of its institutional independence, financial stability as well as its solid position and prestige in the world of science. Prof. Grabski’s personality and charisma made him the universally recognized “face” of the Foundation, hugely respected and valued not only in the scientific community. It was he who defined its mission, which remains in force to this day, and who developed the ways in which it operates. From the very beginning Prof. Grabski was convinced that the Foundation should support only the best people. The maxim he proposed, “Supporting the best, so that they can become even better”, became the Foundation’s official and still relevant motto. Though looking from today’s perspective we know this to be the only effective strategy, back then, just after the fall of communist Poland, it was a truly revolutionary idea. Despite recurring criticism and pressure (those “in need” are so many), Prof. Grabski deeply believed that science was and should remain undemocratic (as he used to say, “science is either very good or nothing”). Thanks to a consistently implemented concept of financing great scholars and transparency of operation, in successive years of its existence the Foundation defined new standards and was able to become a model for subsequently established budget-funded agencies financing scientific research. It gives me great satisfaction to see that the principles promoted by Prof. Grabski are followed at most of the world’s greatest, most respected foundations whose operations are related to science, such as the Wellcome Trust or the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Thanks to the Professor’s intuition and wisdom, the Foundation – to use his words – often “discovered the wheel”, meaning that it introduced solutions which were pioneering in Poland but functioned successfully in countries with long-established traditions of effective non-budgetary support for science. As Prof. Andrzej Jerzmanowski, who chaired the Foundation Council in 2012-2016, summed up when speaking of Prof. Grabski’s achievements as the FNP’s president, “His perception of the universal essence of what science is, his deep conviction as to its fundamental civilizational and cultural function in society, his uncompromising attitude on ethical matters and his persistence and inexhaustible energy in action – all this enabled the Foundation to win enormous prestige, respect and trust, in the Polish as well as the international scientific community”. Edited by Elżbieta Marczuk (FNP). The text includes material published in Prof. Maciej W. Grabski’s book O nauce w Polsce. Zamyślenie [Science in Poland. Thoughts ].


Prof. Maciej W. Grabski; Foundation for Polish Science; non-budgetary support for science; supporting the best; financing leading scholars

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