The fact that Slovak scientists do not have access to important databases of scientific literature is neither negligence nor underestimating the ministry’s duties, Education Minister Peter Plavčan (a Slovak national party-SNS nominee) told as cited by the Sme daily.
The Centre of Scientific and Technical Information that falls under the jurisdiction of Plavčan’s ministry failed to settle its debt to the publishing house Elsevier for last year and Slovak scientists have thus lost access to some one-third of global scientific articles.
Plavčan promised on January 11 that he will solve the problem in the next few days. Access will be paid for from the ministry’s budget, Sme wrote on January 12, which costs some €3.5 million annually.
Access to scientific databases has been made available long term via EU structural funds to the tune of several million euros annually. In 2016, new national projects within Operational Programme Research and Innovation had not been addressed yet, as talks between Slovakia and the European Commission still revolved around administrative issues.
Chairman of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) Pavol Šajgalík stressed earlier in the day that scientific databases are of vital importance to researchers. SAV is optimistic about the future, however, voicing its hope that the interruption will only be short and without any significant impact on projects.
Opposition criticises cabinet
Scientists complained about the inaccessibility of databases on January 11. On the same day, not just the minister but also opposition politicians reacted. The OĽaNO-NOVA opposition party has called on Prime Minister Robert Fico to dismiss Plavčan over the inability to use scientific databases such as Science Direct, Scopus, Reaxys and Knovel as of the beginning of 2017. Without access to the databases, Slovak researchers cannot carry out their tasks effectively, OĽaNO-NOVA leader Igor Matovič said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MP Branislav Gröhling also opined, as quoted by the SITA newswire, that the Centre had known about the problem with databases in advance. He added that Plavčan should carry out consequences and make the officials authorised to solve it responsible. SaS claims that Slovak science has never been, and still is not, a high priority for the Smer-led governments.