On July 6, Armenia’s government approved the State Mid-Term Expenditure Framework for 2018-2020, which foresees a reduction of public funding for science starting next year.
"The main objective of the mid-term expenditure framework is to increase public expenditure management system efficiency," the framework says.
The main issues of science in Armenia are listed in the framework:
- Insufficient state funding;
- Low level of participation of private sector in science funding;
- Science and technology management system’s non-compliance with contemporary standards;
- Inadequate number of qualified staff in some areas of science;
- Senior age of researchers, absence of an effective system to train scientific personnel;
- Lack of strategic development programs for most scientific organizations;
- Non-compliance of most of scientific infrastructures with modern standards;
- Insufficient level of scientific research orders from the economy;
- Lack of science-production cooperation encouragement;
- Small number of applied research;
- Insufficient level of interdisciplinary research coordination.
In 2018-2020, base funding will be cut 4.98% compared to this year. Base funding includes fundamental applied research, maintenance and development of the infrastructure of scientific organizations, protection of scientific objects of national value, training of scientific personnel, ensuring scientific and scientific-technical activities, acquisition of scientific equipment for joint use and implementation of international cooperation programs.
Base funding also includes bonuses for researchers with science degrees. Bonuses will be reduced by 3.32% compared to this year. Currently, candidates of science receive 25,000 drams, doctors - 50,000 drams, but these amounts are also taxed.
Targeted program research funding will be reduced by 9.72% next year. State support for thematic research will be reduced by 14.2%.
Ghazar Galoyan, Acting Head of the Laboratory of Petrology and Isotopic Geology in the Institute of Geological Sciences, says, "We’re in it already, but new people will definitely not enter (or be interested) the field of science. So, they are practically closing down science in Armenia."
David Pipoyan, Head of Informational Analytical Center Assessing Risks in the Food Chain of the Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, notes that his vision is different in reducing science funding. He believes science and research development strategy should be in line with international trends.
"Today, the European Union, being a strong science and education policy unit, is focusing on commercialization and innovation research. If ten years ago you told an expert that science for excellence funding would be reduced in favor of innovation, everyone would say that it couldn’t be true. Today, the share of fundamental science funding in the EU is very small, and the funding for applied and interdisciplinary research is growing. The scientific system in Armenia needs a restart, and reconsideration," says Pipoyan.
Pipoyan says the word “science” is less used than research and development today. During the last year, he has visited different scientific institutions in the EU - Italian, Polish, German - where people with serious scientific achievements call themselves researchers. In Armenia, they get a scientific degree using theses written by someone else.
"I assure you that with the available resources you can give a very good product if you manage it right. If your scientific product isn’t required by anybody today, it is a luxury to have such science. It’s better to use this resource to develop sheep breeding, because Armenian lamb is in demand,” says Pipoyan.
In his opinion, science-government and science-private sector relations should be revised. Today, a scientific institute can do tremendous skilled work, but it takes only one official to hinder it.
"Scientists are always losing in that struggle. This is a very bad phenomenon. Officials come and go, while scientific institutions should always provide stability. The government should be supportive. Competitions should be organized for state needs, and their results should be used, not lost. Believe me, scientists and researchers can have a very important role in state building," says Pipoyan.