Cezary Wójcik, in Correspondence (“Eastern Europe; progress stifled the old guard” Nature 427, 196; 2004), expresses a view of Polish science that is true only to some extent. As young Polish scientists, working both in Poland and abroad, we wish to offer a counterbalancing viewpoint.
First, we do not deny that in some cases a scientific career may be based on “personal or political connections”. But to suggest this applies to the whole of Polish science, as Wójcik does, is an exaggerated generalization. The habilitation is not a mysterious qualification unrelated to any real scientific achievements, but an academic grade having its equivalents in other Western European countries — although in Germany it is no longer required to become a full professor.
Second, the medical sciences require particularly expensive materials and methods, and should not be considered as representative of all scientific disciplines, but rather as an exception.
Similarly, Polish medical journals may not always be internationally recognized, but other disciplines fare better. For example, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica has an impact factor between 0.67 and 1.0 (data for 2001–02), which places it between tenth and fifteenth in the world rankings of the 29 indexed scientific journals in this field, and Acta Astronomica (impact factor 3.2 in 2002) ranks ninth in astronomy.