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After 11 years away from Romania, developmental biologist Ioan Ovidiu Sirbu thought carefully before returning home to continue his scientific career. He had been convinced that reforms to Romania’s cronyism-ridden research landscape were solid, particularly when, in 2011, government grants were for the first time ever allocated solely on the basis of performance.
“With such a fair granting system, I was sure that I could do my research just as well in Romania as in Germany,” says Ovidiu Sirbu. “But what happened was really disappointing.”
Just months after Ovidiu Sirbu established himself at the Victor Babeş University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timişoara in 2012, a new government slashed research funding and unpicked the reforms, eliminating rules designed to establish a meritocracy.
Ovidiu Sirbu’s disappointment is widely shared. In April, hundreds of scientists took to the streets in protest, and more than 900 signed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Victor Ponta, demanding that the research budget and quality control be restored. The entire National Research Council, Romania’s main research-funding agency, resigned in protest (see Nature 496,274–275; 2013).
With no compromise from the government and the council seats still unfilled, Romanian science is adrift. Scientists are resigned to treading water, in the hope that the tide will turn.
Many of Romania’s best researchers left during the political chaos that followed the collapse of communism in 1989. But in 2011, the government passed a law designed to drive up standards in education and science. Research and education minister Daniel Funeriu furnished the law with rules and regulations crafted to break through local power networks and ensure that funding and academic positions would go to the best people — for example by requiring grant applications to be reviewed by foreign experts, and by instituting minimum qualifications for job candidates (see Naturehttp://doi.org/bp7nsg; 2011). At the same time, the research budget was boosted by nearly half.
But that government fell last year. Reversals to the reforms followed; many scientists blame Funeriu’s successor, Ecaterina Andronescu. (citește AICI întreg articolul)