Categories: ENNews
      Date: Dec  3, 2010
     Title: Appeal for support

Civil Movement for the Support of Science and Education in Bulgaria:  
Civil Movement for the 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.

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