30 March 2011

After months of protests of the scientific community at home and abroad in the beginning of February 2011 the Bulgarian government withdrew its Draft Law on BAS aimed at disintegrating the Academy. In an unprecedented move a commission including representatives of scientists and of all parliamentary represented political parties was set up to work together on a new Draft. After a month the agreed Amendments to the existing Law on BAS were ready. The main new change is the institution of a new body - a 13- member Board with mainly consultative functions in which the government will be represented by two ministers. The entity and the autonomy of BAS have been preserved with the General Assembly of scientists remaining its main governing body. On March 30 the law finally passed in the National Assembly.

22 December 2010

A month later it is time to summarise our achievements and to draw some conclusions.

The result of a month intensive work, countless discussions with friends, several talks with parliament members and weekly street protests, is a firm determination to continue our struggle.

The positive part of our efforts:
We are touched and inspired by how many people from all over the world support us. Our most sincere gratitude to all of you who signed our petition!

Special thanks to Professors Juerg Froehlich, Marian Apostol, Elias Kiritsis, Dennis Bonatsos, Stephan Schiller, Norbert Pietralla, David Barney and Michael Kobel (co-chairs of the European Particle Physics Outreach Group - EPPOG), Lev Zelenyi, Gordon Shepherd, Xenophon Moussas, Giovanni Bignami (COSPAR President), Jaime Vila, Karl Seff, Iver Cairns, Robert Vincent (president of the Scientific committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics - SCOSTEP), David Sarkisyan, Luigi Moi, Joel Lebowitz, Paul Plotzand and Walter Reich (Co-chairs of the Committee of Concerned scientists), János Demetrovics, Ioannis Tarnanidis, Silvia Gozzini, Alessandro Lucchesini, Carlo Gabbanini and Luca Marmugi, Robert Le Roy, Kiyohumi Yumoto, Leo Storme, Christoph Heinrich, L.Windholz, Rolf Jeltsch who spent time to write personally to the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Chairwoman of the Parliament letters explaining why science and established research institutions are important.

Special thanks as well to the Nobel Laureates Andre Geim, Alexey Abrikosov, David Gross, Zhores Alferov, Sheldon Glashow, Roy J. Glauber, Richard J. Roberts, Robert Curl and to the Fields Medalists Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Okunkov, Vladimir Drinfeld, Alain Connes, Gregory Margulis, Stanislav Smirnov whose support is of great importance.

The negative part:
Despite our constant pressure there was no one in the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, Youth and Science to engage in a much needed constructive dialog. Now it is crystal clear that the so called reform of Bulgarian science and education does not aim the advance of science and education at all. Let us cite Mr. Simeon Djankov, half an year before he became deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finances of Bulgaria   (December 12th 2008 interview   in magazine Capital):

.. Option [to reform the system of research] is to close most laboratories and research centers of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and in their place set up Fund "Science". It will be available to all scientists from various universities, private laboratories, non-profit think tanks and even industry. ...  In order to get a quick start, it is best to close down most of the divisions of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and to sell their buildings. This will generate revenue of about 250 million dollars. Most of it could be invested directly into the Fund. With the rest one could buy stock on the stock exchange which in a short while will be very successful. After that one will have to create foundations which will give grant money to projects not to institutions. The good research projects will be used in the universities and laboratories and this will improve the quality of education...

This "creation by destruction" scenario has been already realised in Georgia at a time when Simeon Djankov was a financial adviser to the Georgian government. The same future looms over us with the new Bill about the structure of the Academy, which effectively disintegrates it as a National Research Centre. The Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Science not only questioned the motivating arguments of the authors of this Bill, but clearly warned that it will have catastrophic consequences (link). Nevertheless the first hearing of the Bill is expected in days.

The irony is that today the state subsidy for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is reduced by 30% but that for the National Science Fund is reduced by 50%. At the same time the overall budget expenditures are cut by 8%. And if one thinks just for a second on Mr. Djankov's proposition, its absurdity becomes clear: the annual interest of the cited revenue is so small that no research could be performed with such funding. But this is not a mistake of Mr. Djankov as it is not a mistake that he deliberately underestimated the assets of the Academy. The present government is misguided by Mr. Djankov. He does not plan to invest in science. He plans to sell the science. If his project is realised this would be a premeditated crime of immense proportions.

On May 19th this year the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov publicly announced that he supports the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and stated, in particular, that the autonomy and integrity of the Academy will be preserved. We urge him to abide by his promises.

21 November 2010 на български

Civil Movement for Support of Science and Education in Bulgaria

We say:

NO to the financial strangulation of science in Bulgaria!

Today, after years of total neglect for education and science by the ruling establishment in Bulgaria, we are witnessing a premeditated policy to strangle financially the leading Bulgarian scientific and educational institutions.

With few exceptions, the country’s research potential is concentrated at the Institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. With about 17% of the researchers in the country, the Academy alone contributes almost 60% of its scientific output, while another 30% comes from Sofia University. Researchers of the two institutions work successfully in international collaborations and the level of their PhD students has been widely appreciated by the international scientific community. A recent European audit of the Institutes of the Academy concluded that the majority of them perform “valuable research of international standard… an impressive achievement, considering the particularly difficult circumstances for research in Bulgaria”. As a major problem the Review Committee identified a chronic shortage of funding. The real scale of the problem is well illustrated by the fact that the combined subsidy for the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Sofia University has been reduced since 1991 five-fold, relative to the mounting expenditure on the three representative national bodies - the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Presidency.

Slogans, like “Science is not a priority in times of crisis”, have been used to justify the drastic cuts in the budgets for higher education and scientific research - a blatant snub to intellectual endeavour when compared with the three-fold increase in spending for sport. With a state subsidy of 31 million euros for 2010 and 2011 (amounting to 70% of the already reduced 2009 subsidy), the Academy is driven to the verge of collapse. In the course of the current year, 700 researchers have left the Academy; the few remaining young people, with salaries reduced to the minimum wage, are ready to leave en masse. In the proposed budget for 2011 the overall funding of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Sofia University drops to 0.12% of the expected GDP compared to the 0.2% of the GDP in 2009.

The present government has declared open war on the main scientific institution of the country. On November 15, 2010 the Prime Minister of Bulgaria announced his Government’s intention to, de facto, liquidate the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences by stripping it of its autonomy. The planned transfer of the research institutes to other institutions by new legislation and/or persistent financial strangulation turns them into hostages of political power, if they survive at all. Such an arbitrary act against the autonomy of academic science, its traditions, and its self-imposed organizational structure has not been attempted in the 141-year history of the Academy. This act is presented as “reform” by a key member of the current cabinet, who has long campaigned for the privatization of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, thus reducing this renowned institution to a saleable asset.

Science and education always matter both in years of crisis and in years of prosperity. At a time when more and more third-world countries are on a fast-track to success, it is astonishing to witness how an EU member country, with honourable history in education and science, is declining into a society with an uneducated population, suitable only for unqualified jobs, where the educated and capable see their future outside their homeland. It is the prospect of such a bleak future that concerns us and the Bulgarian scientific diaspora most deeply.

List of signatories

You may want to send a letter with a short statement to the same extent to the Bulgarian Prime Minister Mr. Boyko Borissov and Chair of Parliament Mrs. Tsetska Tsacheva:
The Bulgarian scientific diaspora Open Letter
Letters to the Bulgarian Prime Minister and Chairwoman of the Parliament in our support

additional info

contact e-mail: science.nauka2010@gmail.com
main web address: http://nauka2007.org/web/ (in Bulgarian)
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

A letter from Georgia about the "reform" of their Academy of Sciences
A letter of support from Professor Alexandr Shaikin (in Russian)
A letter of support from the Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine (2008) Professor Harald zur Hausen

An article in Times Higher Education (THE) by Matthew Reisz
Ivaylo Spasov, Press TV, Sofia
The Bulgaria 2010 Review: Education, Author: Ognian Kassabov
Nature: Science fortunes of Balkan neighbours diverge, Author: A. Abbott
Nature: Different strokes, Editorial
PRIVATE ENTREPRENEURS IN SCIENCE by Professor Dr.Sc. in philosophy Ivan Katzarski
Nature: Bulgarian funding agency accused of poor practice, Author: Alison Abbott

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