29 October 2010
from the Bulgarian academic and scientific community abroad
to the Bulgarian Parliament and Government
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Bulgarian academic and scientific community abroad is following, with great anxiety, the developments related to the fate of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Sofia – the flagships of Bulgarian science and education.
Living and working in countries where research and education are regarded as vitally important, we find the lack of respect and appreciation for them among recent Bulgarian governments totally unacceptable. During the accession to the EU, not a single euro was negotiated for the support of research, an example without precedent among new member states. Over the past few years, the proportion of money allocated for science in Bulgaria’s budget has steadily decreased, and has led to an absurd situation where academics are forced to cover expenses for supplies and materials from their own modest salaries in order to be able to continue their work.
The reckless policies of the ruling establishment have eviscerated Bulgarian science and education - hundreds of renowned specialists and thousands of talented young people have left the country. The number of scientists per capita in Bulgaria is at present two to three times lower than the EU average. These processes have led to the demise of internationally recognized research groups which had taken years to develop. Some of us were shaped by these schools. If the situation continues to be as it stands now, the standard of science in the country will be pushed back by decades.
Our colleagues, who, against all odds chose to stay in Bulgaria, still conduct research which is of international standard, a fact confirmed in the recent European evaluation of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Bulgarian scholars are regularly invited to international conferences and participate in multi-national collaborative projects. However, due to the lack of career prospects, the number of young people wishing to work in science has fallen drastically.
While the funding of science and education has been on the increase in most EU countries, in Bulgaria it was drastically reduced in 2010; and this, despite the already existing disproportions compared to the rest of Europe. Salaries at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which are lower than the national average, have been further reduced by 20-40%. Allocated funding from the National Fund for Scientific Research has been frozen; money coming from other sources to Sofia University and the Academy of Sciences, including money from international projects, has been blocked. And equally disastrous future is promised in the proposed budget for 2011.
The Bulgarian academic and scientific community abroad is deeply worried by the lack of vision within the Bulgarian establishment, which will have catastrophic consequences for the nation. Science and education should be given priority, with the aim of approaching the European average. Bulgaria must try to create conditions which attract its scientists and academics working abroad to return to their country. In times of crisis, it is military and administrative budgets that should be cut, not those for education and scientific research.
We believe that all Bulgarian universities should be subjected to international evaluation, so that adequate funds can be allocated to those with the strongest research and teaching qualifications, and that ignoring the positive conclusions and recommendations of the 2009 international assessment of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences will have disastrous consequences for the technological future of the country. It is imperative that the Government should produce a national strategy for the development of science and education and that this should be done with the participation of the Bulgarian scholarly community.
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