The tradition of national research awards has continued for 30 years already. It is older than our newly independent state. On 20 August 1990, Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar signed the regulation on founding the national research awards of the Republic of Estonia. Independence was regained a year later. The first awards were granted in 1991. From the very beginning, brilliant or extraordinary achievements have been in focus*.
The Estonian state has delegated the pre-selection of laureates of national research awards to the Academy of Sciences. This means helping to draft the rules, announcing the competition, reviewing and registering applications, then analyzing them in depth and communicating the Academy’s recommendations on awarding or non-awarding of prizes to the government. The award committee is set up by the Government of the Republic.
Traditionally, two national research awards for outstanding lifetime achievements in research and development, or lifetime achievement awards, are granted each year. Eight annual awards are given to acknowledge the best research work completed and published during the last four years in specific fields.
Awards for outstanding scientific discoveries – so-called discovery awards – may be given for discoveries that change the paradigm and world-view in particular areas of research, that create a new field of research or lead to the creation of an innovative product which has a significant socio-economic impact.
In the absence of research work at a sufficiently high level, the committee has the right to give a recommendation to the government to abstain from awarding a prize.
* Eesti Vabariigi preemiad 2020 (Estonian National Awards 2020), Estonian Academy of Sciences, Tallinn, 2020, p 10 (in Estonian).