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Research in Natural Sciences - a Romanian perspective

Speranta Avram
Bucharest, Romania

 

Recent reports published statistics about an important decrease of research workers in Romania from 1989 (170,000) to 2001 (7,000) (Adevarul, 14.12.2002). While the number of active researchers decreases rapidly, their median age witnessed a significant increase (by now, almost 50). The same report points out that the state budget for scientific activities is 4 Euros per capita, in contrast to other countries who allocate close to 32 Euros per capita (Adevarul, 14.12.2002).

There is a significant gap between the median salary in research and the money spent on the import of new technology. While the median salary is almost 100 Euros, a lot of new technology, very expensive and sometimes not really necessary, is kept in laboratories (Adevarul, 14.12.2002). This paradoxical gap (a lot of money to support the technology, but almost no money to support personnel) forces many researchers, looking for a decent salary, to choose exile. They often must remain separated from their families for a long time, but the fact is that... "science passes through the stomach".

There is the illusion that expensive technologies are enough for high quality research and many people believe that using sophisticated equipment may lead to the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, these people forgot that human resources and personnel skills are eve more important. It is impossible to obtain remarkable results without an inquisitive and perspicacious mind, without the passion for unraveling mysteries, without creativity and imagination and a strong tenacity for "snatching" accurate results from nature. These skills develop when there is an incessant scientific pull.

Another criticism is related to the manner in which people are promoted. Personal connections matter more than scientific or educational skills. The quantitative criterion favors graphomania, and there is many a situation when the number of publications is more important than the content itself.

For all that...

There are situations when the interest for science and the good managerial skills of department heads from some Romanian research units represent the decisive factors in pushing toward high research activities. In these laboratories, the managerial policy is to achieve research projects while allowing good financial incentives for people associated with these projects, in same time, and to spend wisely on technology, when it is really necessary. The same diplomatic skills of these heads of laboratories lead to partnership in international fellowships (Tempus, Socrates, etc), which promote important collaborations between Romanian laboratories and prestigious laboratories abroad. These fellowships promote a lot of PhD students, and, what is very important, these PhD students find the possibility to keep their own research work back home. Also, these research units further benefit from international fellowships by bringing in know-how and high quality scientific work, thanks the PhD students.

Furthermore, some Visiting Professors, working and lecturing in areas related to, e.g., drug design, molecular physiology, etc. represent an important strategy for these laboratories to improve research activities in our country. If a young researcher has the chance to work in such a laboratory, it is then possible to produce good quality research in Romania, too... Unfortunately, such situations are not that frequent.

 

Ad Astra • Volume 2, Issue 1, 2003 • Viewpoint
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