Scientists stage second rally for more funds

Ljubljana, 18 April - Around 500 scientists and their supporters gathered in front of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) on Wednesday to point to the difficulties of the profession, especially the lack of systemic funding. They pointed to what science has achieved over the centuries and noted that future is possible only with science.

Under the slogan "Why Not for Science", scientists gathered for a second rally of the kind after a march for science in Ljubljana exactly a year ago.

Boštjan Nedoh of the Philosophy institute of SAZU pointed to last year's rally, saying that "we were prompted primarily by the unsustainable conditions in which we work on the daily basis".

Nedoh said that politicians and parties had been ignoring science for years, and that it was not a coincidence that the governments had decided to save money on science during the economic crisis.

"The state has saved more money only on the poor," he said, adding that the current economic growth was not a consequence of new discoveries, but poorly paid work.

The protesters demanded legislative changes to regulate the financing of science and distribution of funds.

Nedoh expressed the hope that scientists will gather in an even larger number next year, stressing that "there will be a future only with science."

Gregor Majdič of the Ljubljana Veterinary Faculty wondered "why Slovenian politics does not know what to do with science", saying that science was the driving force of progress and that it brought well-being.

"Only with science Slovenia will be able to advance and catch up with the most successful countries, which have arrived where they are with investments in science and development of the society."

Archaeobotanist Tjaša Tolar said that "we will not accept politics which sees science as cost, because we want to point to the importance of science for the economic and social development of Slovenia".

The SVIZ trade union of teachers has endorsed the rally, and called on the parties running in the upcoming election to take a clear stance to funding of science and research from the budget.

Last April, over a thousand researchers gathered in the centre of the capital. As a result, scientists managed to negotiate an additional EUR 27m in budget funds for science in 2017 and 2018.

Talks have also started on changes to the act on science and research aimed at improving systemic financing and promoting the development of science.

However, the bill, which envisages a gradual increase of research spending to at least 0.7% of GDP in five years and 1% in a decade, appears to be stuck.

The Finance Ministry recently proposed capping the funding of the Agency for Research at 0.39% of GDP, which scientists believe would put Slovenia at the tail end of EU countries in terms of research funding.

Ahead of the rally, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Sport said that in the term of the current government, the negative trend in the financing of science had been reversed.

Funds for science have been increasing since 2015, and a significant increase has been secured in the 2018 and 2019 budgets, the ministry added.

This year EUR 231m is available for science and research, EUR 50m more than in 2017, while the figure will increase next year to EUR 236m, according to the ministry.