Stories from FIT

People are the greatest wealth. Internationalisation is our opportunity

A team of researchers around Jan Černocký is one of the world leaders in the field of speech analysis, language and speaker recognition. Thanks to this, researchers from all over the world are interested in working in his "speech group". There are currently people from 10 different countries on his team. "If you want to be at the top, internationalisation is your only chance," he says. But it's also hard work, he adds.

"Brno" is a known phenomenon in the international speech processing and natural language research community. "A lot of researchers have been here. At the same time, it is known that there are skilled people from here who work abroad on internships, in large companies and research institutes," says Jan Černocký. Technology companies have grown up around the skilled people involved in this research, so it is no wonder that Brno is sometimes called the "Speech Valley" and people who want to work or study in the field head there.

But the journey to reach such world-renown was neither short nor easy. Twenty-one years ago, even Jan Černocký had no idea that it would lead through Brno. "I was on a study stay in the United States at the time and I was thinking about what to do next because I didn't really want to return to Brno to the Department of Radio Electronics. Then I got a call from Pavel Zemčík, the current dean, whom I didn't know that well at the time, that a new faculty was being established and he offered me a job there," he recalls. It took him a day to mull it over.

"It just went beautifully. We started in a small group, but we found a good environment here, which is important to get new things going," he says. However, they started from almost scratch with regard to internationalisation. "The most important thing is to try it out for yourself, so we've been all over the world. Then it's important that people out there know you're good. This started to happen around 2005 when the first successes in international evaluations came and we started to make important connections. Moreover, being open and having institutional support is key. That's what we try to do as much as possible," says Jan Černocký.

People are the greatest wealth, he adds. "We have good universities here, but also fierce competition and very little mobility. Internationalisation is our chance to stay on top," he says, adding that it costs a lot of work and money, but it is worth it. And that goes both ways. 

"I encourage my colleagues to go out, even at the cost of having to divide their work among others or doing it myself. Indeed, most of them have spent months or years abroad. If they come back, I'm thrilled to have people with that kind of experience in my lab, but should they choose to stay abroad, I'm glad to have my people in important places. It's a win-win situation," says Jan Černocký.

Maximum openness is the key, he believes. "Our group publishes its work, of course, but we also make our results, data and models available to the community and organise conferences and events. In the long run, this will certainly pay off more than concealment and obfuscation," he concludes.

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