EDITORIAL

Scientific research ignored

Although many of our native inventions, innovations and scientific discoveries are of European importance, they are barely noticeable in the abundant flow of information in Romanian “contemporary reality”. A contemporary reality in which recent news on the death of the self-proclaimed “king of the Romani people” is constantly being advertised, while the recent commemoration of 106 years since the death of our great European calibre encyclopaedist Bogdan Petriceiu Hasdeu is being completely ignored. In such a psychological and social context, we should not be surprised that some of the most remarkable projects conducted by Romanian researchers – as few as there are left after the depletion of local scientific research studies – are being completely ignored by the Romanian government, while, abroad, they care brought to life.
Romania is forced to import the technical realisations of its own ideas for incredibly steep prices.
A private company owned by several Romanian farmers has created new species of corn and sunflower with increased resistance to draught. This remarkable discovery has been, and continues to be overlooked by our former and current rulers. This also applies to a project for modern tractors that are more malleable and less expensive that previous models. What are the consequences? The same project, ignored in its country of origin, is being successfully implemented as we speak in Brazil. The Danube River is situated only 7 kilometres from Dabuleni and, still, this area experiences Sahara-like climatic conditions every year. Around 70,000 hectares in this area have undergone a desertification process as the large strip of sand spreads 30 kilometres wide. Not being able to irrigate the land properly, farmers can no longer cultivate it. Indeed, there are irrigation projects, but does anyone care about them? Do our rulers? Mentality-wise, they are the same rulers who at the start of the 1990s destroyed the second largest irrigation system in Europe designed to cover the 4 million hectares of arable Romanian land.
How can such reckless and often self-harming passivity be explained? It is relatively simple, I think. Romanian governances of the last 18 to 20 years have acted as if they were prisoners of the ‘now’, with no regard whatsoever for the future and with no attempts at predicting and anticipating basic strategic objectives. Since scientific research is the very field of reference for a long-term national strategy, it was also the first to be not only completely ignored, but downright undermined by our rulers. Every government of the last 17 to 18 years has outstanding debts to pay to scientific research, primarily from a financial point of view. This uninterrupted downward tendency of financial involution has led the way to our current situation, in which public budget support for Romanian sciences is under 1 US dollar per capita, compared to any other country that, despite a modest development rate, actually spends 40 US dollars per capita on scientific research. All the while, other countries that rely on research are investing between 400 and 500 US dollars per capita in research studies.
The attitude of Romanian governments is more damnable if we consider that the budget for research is related to the gross domestic product. However small a country’s budget may be, it should be distributed equally: the smaller the budget, the greater the balance. Such logical rules do not apply to our country. A country that aspires toward overall development usually assigns 3 to 5 per cent of the gross domestic product to scientific research. Romania assigns under 0.3 per cent, in the best of cases. Involution has become permanent. Our one legislative initiative to set a threshold under which research funding should not sink never passed because of fear of lack of consistency in complying with it. These very types of financial shortcomings, which are amplified by fraudulent privatisations of scientific research units, have resulted in a continuous drop in the number of Romanian researchers.
A large percentage of those who felt obliged to leave the field of Romanian research emigrated abroad, to countries like Germany, Austria or the Netherlands, where they were welcomed with open arms thanks to their professional worth. Such emigrations of higher educated specialists is a double-folded loss for Romania: the loss of their European professional worth and the financial loss resulting from the fact that their education – from primary school to PhD studies – is financed by the state, so it is free. The national economy of some Western countries, such as the ones mentioned above, gladly benefits from contributions brought by our emigrated specialists. Then, these same countries claim they are opposed to Romania’s accession to the Schengen area, invoking the very danger of Romanian emigration. Thus, the free circulation of citizens to EU Member States is demoted from fundamental right to petty post-colonial discriminatory interest.
The same financial shortcomings are responsible for the staggering decrease in the number of Romanian researchers. Some researcher emigrated, while others resorted to working in areas that are most often unrelated to their area of scientific expertise. And this loss is greater for Romania, the more we take into account that a researcher’s formation is a difficult process. For these reasons, the median age of Romanian researchers has gone up to 35 or 38 years old, returning to the level of over 50 years ago, because specialists emigrated at a young age. Furthermore, a number of managerial initiatives designed to support scientific research have systematically been undermined by people who wanted to pillage the material foundation of scientific research. For instance, a decision was made that research funding should not be directed exclusively at supporting research institutes, as the case was in the past, but to a smaller circle of researchers. The decision seemed promising, but the permanent state of financial regression has caused the economic units that requested such programmes to go into insolvency. So everything ended up being sold for incredibly small prices.
After the former “scientific towns” of the USSR crumbled and native researchers started to emigrate, the international research market proved the same lack of leniency toward Romanian projects. The only place firmly dominated by Romanian scientific research is the International Inventions Exhibition in Brussels, where Romania wins a great number of medals every year (be they gold, silver or bronze), as well as numerous honourable mentions and special diplomas. This proves the viability of Romanian creative potential, but also the fact that it has been increasingly undermined by fraudulent privatisations of research institutions that were turned into hotels, restaurants and other assets of tycoons who often come from abroad.
There are solutions for boosting the Romanian research field, the success of which depends on the minimum requirement that they be related to academic structures and on Romania investing both money into research and ideas and initiatives, and, thus, running a high quality management.

Related posts

Poverty brings the disease

The spectrum of repression

The president’s future in the party

Leave a Comment