“The choice of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to visit the University of Cyprus is not only procedural in nature but also substantial and symbolic,” the New Wave said in a statement.
“The President of the European Commission,” he notes, “visited the Library of the University of Cyprus, perhaps the most emblematic building of Cypriot education. Then he visited the KIOS Center of Excellence, which is the locomotive of our country's research effort “.
“Cypriot researchers,” he emphasizes, “have proved for many years now their competence, ability and creativity. These are not just observations, but are documented by the EU's qualitative and quantitative research on attracting research funding. In all these lists of the 5th framework and the Horizon 2020 program, Cyprus is almost at the top. These are the lists that make us proud, when many other lists of governance elements upset us and drag us away openly. Of course, the country's political staff has introduced research and green development into its vocabulary, but these are not assimilated in practice and remain a “wooden language”. “Decisions are made that will not only not advance the research effort, but will make it difficult: they will make it the subject of an endless customer relationship, where experienced researchers will have to give their credentials to the party system to do their job.”
“Specifically,” he adds, “we are referring to the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy and the recent decision taken regarding the Teaming program.”
“The Teaming projects”, he continues, “concern alliances between universities with low research activity and universities with high research activity, which aim at the transfer of know-how”.
“Until today,” he says, “little Cyprus has done very well. It was first on the list of these competitive programs, with Europeans repeatedly expressing their admiration for our successes. Research centers such as KIOS, the Cyprus Institute of Maritime and Shipping etc. developed through the Teaming program. The European funding provided is around 15 million euros for each center. Another significant amount comes from the private sector. The support of the state is also taken for granted, which declares its readiness for financial support of the research centers with about one million euros per year, so that they are secured and sustainable for the next 15 years. We note that these centers employ hundreds of young researchers.
But how did it go before state support until the proposals were submitted to the EU and what has changed? All research teams could apply for the Teaming program, while receiving a letter of support and commitment from the Republic of Cyprus, which helped the teams strengthen their application. The EU then evaluated all European proposals and between 3-5% of these proposals were excellent and approved for funding. Subsequently, the state kept its promises.
What is changing today?
The State Department decided that a letter of support – a promise for funding will be given in advance in only one proposal, which it will choose. The questions that arise are obvious: does the State Department have better know-how to select scientific proposals than the European Commission? And if so, by what criteria does it decide? Who will this selection committee consist of and who will select them?
We are very afraid that the choice will be made with wrong criteria and motives. The argument used, that they know better the needs of the place, is unfounded and unsubstantiated. Because the needs of the place are seen through the integrated proposal and in fact by people who know much better than us the European priorities and how they are in line with the local priorities of the peoples of Europe.
The State Department proposal will not only have disastrous consequences for research excellence issues, but, much more, will deprive Cyprus of many important EU programs. Assuming that the proposal approved by the State Department and submitted has not been selected by the EU, this means that this year we will be left without any successful proposals, when in previous years we won at least two in each announcement of the program.
In the first call of the Teaming program from the European Union, Poland, with a population of 40 million, applied exactly the same method that Cyprus decided to apply today. In other words, she first made a national pre-selection herself. None of these programs proposed by Poland later passed the EU, leaving the country without a Teaming program, when Cyprus of one million won two of them. It is important to ask, is there finally no one in the State Department to study these details and advise their superiors?
If the State really means what it declares to support research activity, it should annul the specific decisions. This is the creation of centers of excellence in which at least 50% of our funding comes from the European Union.
We consider that the specific decision of the State Department is outside any framework of research excellence. It creates client relationships between the research world of Cyprus and the political staff, depriving the country of huge research funds and depriving many young researchers of the opportunity to start or even continue their career in a research center of excellence. We have no doubt that the “excellent proposals” will change every time the ruling parties change, transforming the research world of Cyprus into a world of miserable dependence.
It is noteworthy that the leaders of our universities and research centers have not yet reacted. Do they agree with the clientele of the research effort in our country?
We call on the State Ministry to annul the specific decision, for all the above reasons that are explained and analyzed “.