Siranuysh Papyan

Lragir.am News
18:56:01 - 30/08/2011

Interview with Daniel Ioannisyan, a fellow of Yerevan Institute of
Physics, member of We Demand Boost of Funds for Science Initiative,
on the problems of modern science

Daniel, in a recent meeting in Tsaghkadzor young scientists brought
up the current problems of science and introduced the demand of
scientists to boost science funding. Serzh Sargsyan attending the
meeting said this demand is an end in itself and did not pledge a
boost because he says our country has adopted three-year planning,
and medium-term programs were approved last year for 2012. Was Serzh
Sargsyan's answer disappointing, what are your impressions?

Frankly speaking, I wasn't surprised. It was a surprise that the
president came. I suppose it was a surprise for him too but I wasn't
surprised by the president's reaction because if the president had
other opinion on science funding, he would have boosted it. His words
made think that our demand is an end in itself, that we have come to
ask for money, that we are to blame, and if money is allocated for
science, either the army will become less effective, or fewer babies
will be born or churches dating from the 15th century would come down.

It appeared that if funding for science were boosted, we would be to
blame for the destruction of Armenia.

Nevertheless, there is another meeting with Serzh Sargsyan. Will you
go on to set forward the same demand?

In fact, we have already reached agreement with the Heritage Party,
the ARF Dashnaktsutyun and the Bargavach Hayastan Party that 3% of
the budget must be allocated for science in 2012, tripling today's
funding. This year 1% of the budget has been allocated. We supposed
that the Republicans would join this demand but they didn't. In
addition, these parties include this in the budget of 2012. On the
whole, both scientists and political parties find that science funding
should total 1% of the GDP, which is about 5% of the budget and will
grow up to 3% of the GDP.

Serzh Sargsyan also noted that so far a lot of money has been allocated
and it is necessary to see into it to find out if the money was spent
efficiently, how many scientific institutions operated efficiently.

Certainly, there is a fair observation here. Part of this money is
spent uselessly, there are idle scientific institutions. I don't mean
the scientists are bad, the scientific institutions are idle (applied
sciences are meant). The problem is they don't get orders and funding.

There are agricultural scientific establishments which are idle because
the ministry of agriculture does not implement projects. I am sure
the staff of these establishments is in place, and if orders come,
they will work.

Of 4500 scientists, in your opinion, how many are effective? Serzh
Sargsyan fears that everyone will become a scientist.

In fact, 4500 are considered active scientists. All in all, there are
6500-7000 scientists, of which 4500 are in science. In reality, this
is a small number, compared with the late 80s. It is twice as low as
the world's average index, and much lower compared with the average
index of European countries. In other words, in Armenia the number
of scientists, 4500, is not too many, it is too few, and everything
must be done to boost their number.

What are the ways of diversifying funding of science? How could
corruption risk be reduced in case funding is boosted?

In the world, several funding procedures are practiced which almost
rule out corruption risk. For instance, honoraria for articles
in authoritative journals, which are paid from budget, they are
absolutely out of corruption because no official could arrange an
article or falsify something because international authoritative
journals are concerned.

We say the attitude to scientists must change. The "scientist is poor"
approach must change. Why is there such an attitude?

30-40 years ago, children at school dreamed of being astronauts,
pilots, scientists, it was fashionable, and it was good. Now people
dream of being policeman to make money on bribes. This is a matter of
values. Being a scientist is already out of fashion. People don't want
to be scientists because they don't make money. Suppose that I want
to be a scientist and make inventions but how am I going to support
my family? This is very objective and fair. But on the other hand,
the society does not display sufficient respect for scientists. Areg
Mikaelyan brought up this issue with the president, and I think
Serzh Sargsyan should have stated yes, you are right, the image of a
scientist should be improved, but I understood from his remarks that
it makes no difference to him whether we are scientists or drivers,
his attitude will not change, which insulted me, frankly speaking. In
fact, the society does not respect scientists, being a scientist is
not respectable, it is less respectable than riding a big black SUV
and being an oligarch.

The scientists were advised to invent a magic stick to take people
to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine to see what's happing there.

I went to Georgia 10-12 times last year. Every time I cross the
border for Georgia, I feel relaxed, and when I cross the border in the
opposite direction, I feel like returning to jail. A simple example.

In Georgia, I am riding on the highway and I see a police car from
afar. I feel relaxed because I know should I have a problem, the
policeman will be my first friend, whereas in Armenia, whenever I
see a police car, I hope he will not stop me because I don't expect
anything good from him. In fact, Georgia is closer to being a civilized
country than us.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress