Protest pointing to stalemate in SAV takes place at Cabinet Office

The academy of sciences has been paralysed and its operation threatened, organisers from the initiative Veda Chce Žiť (Science Wants to Live) argue.

Participants of the Veda Chce Žiť protest in front of Government Office in Bratislava, August 14.Participants of the Veda Chce Žiť protest in front of Government Office in Bratislava, August 14.(Source: TASR)

The Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) is in critical condition, as the Education Ministry still has not included SAV on the Registry of Public Research Institutions, organisers of the August 14 protest in Freedom Square/Námestie Slobody, in front of the Cabinet Office in Bratislava, said.

Stalemate caused by ministry

SAV’s individual institutes have been paralysed, and their future is uncertain, while the ministry’s arguments against enrolling SAV’s units on the registry “are irrelevant in principle”, according to the organisers. SAV head Pavol Šajgalík described, as quoted by the TASR newswire, the ministry’s refusal to enroll the academy’s bodies on the list as unlawful. This sentiment is echoed by a legal analysis carried out on its behalf.

Read also:Scientists to protest against current situation at SAV

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister for Investment and Informatisation Richard Raši (of the ruling Smer party), who is also chairman of the governmental Council for Science, Technology and Innovations, announced at the request of Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini (also Smer) that an extraordinary session will take place on August 16 to discuss the situation “on neutral ground”.

In response to SAV’s determination to resolve the situation via the General Prosecutor’s Office, Education Minister Martina Lubyová (a nominee of the SNS, junior coalition party) described it as inappropriate.

“We don’t want to see chaos at SAV,” the minister noted, as cited by TASR. “We’re taking steps, writing and speaking to everyone, but we’re labelled as the worst, simply due to our efforts to observe laws, to ensure that state property is transferred under transparent conditions and that the laws concerning registration are respected.”

What is the bone of contention?

The most notable problem for the SAV now concerns the Agency for Support of Research and Development, Šajgalík said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that the Education Ministry gave a recommendation to the Agency [which is in charge of distribution of EU funds] not to conclude contracts with the SAV.

Read also:Current stalemate paralyses the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Education Minister Lubyová on August 14 launched five calls for support for long-term strategic research and development worth €288 million. At a press conference, she announced that the SAV may also apply for support for their projects. “If we can apply for EU funds, then I don’t understand why the Education Ministry directly instructed the agency not to conclude contracts with us,” the president of the Academy told SITA. “It is difficult for us to understand, as the Education Ministry issues statements that suggests nothing is happening and the academy is living its normal life.”

Law passed, not implemented

Last year, Slovak parliament passed a Law on Public Research Institution, based on which all SAV institutions should have been transformed into public research institutions by July 1, 2018.

However, for them to be established, the Education Ministry has to inscribe them on the register, which has not been done as of August 15, according to SITA. Thus, the academy’s organisations cannot manage the money to buy technology, employees pay business trips from their own pockets, and institutions cannot bid for projects or grants, SAV spokesperson Monika Hucáková told SITA, adding that the mental harm when scientists feel no support from the state and face absurd obstacles threatens the attractiveness of the profession.

Potential partners have even started withdrawing from prepared projects. The Horizon 2020 project was especially threatened, Šajgalík said, and added that this issue must be solved as soon as possible, and not some time in September.

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