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Education Science

Romanian Science In Freefall 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-roughly-10-meters-per-second-squared,-or-so dept.
ananyo writes "In 2011, Romania took a step towards changing its cronyism-ridden research landscape by allocating government grants for science solely on the basis of performance. In 2012, a new government eliminated those rules, then slashed science funding — and since then things have gotten a whole lot worse. The entire National Research Council, Romania's main research-funding agency, has resigned in protest and 900 scientists signed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Victor Ponta, demanding that the research budget and quality control be restored. Ponta himself unfortunately has been accused of academic plagiarism so seems an unlikely figure to address corruption in the scientific establishment. The new science minister, Ecaterina Andronescu, is experienced — she's held the post twice before and is a rector at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest. But she's already reversed conflict of interest rules brought in by the previous government that were designed to end cronyism. And no wonder — they would have meant that she couldn't be science minister and run a university at the same time. Oh, she has also been accused of plagiarism."
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Romanian Science In Freefall

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  • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:20PM (#44718789)
    So, it has come to this.
    • Well, here (Score:1, Insightful)

      Look at our Vice President [nytimes.com]. I guess winning the election is tantamount to a pardon.
      • Re:Well, here (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:34PM (#44718927)

        I don't think you need a presidential pardon for a stupid thing you did in college. Heck, Plagiarism is not even illegal, just wrong.

        Are you telling me you did not do worse in college?

        • Re:Well, here (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:00PM (#44719127)

          I don't think you need a presidential pardon for a stupid thing you did in college.

          Biden has plagiarized far more recently than that. During his 1988 presidential campaign, we was caught plagiarizing his speeches [wikipedia.org] from Neil Kinnock. Biden has been in politics his entire adult life. He is sort of like a replicant in Blade Runner that has to steal other people's dreams and memories in order to look like a real person.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            He is an odd duck, and like his boss I would likely not vote for him but again not a crime as far as I know. So no need for a pardon.

            Does he write his own speeches or was this his speech writer plagiarizing?

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by noh8rz10 (2716597)

              in romania, science plagarizes you!

            • Does he write his own speeches or was this his speech writer plagiarizing?

              You should read the Wiki article. He wasn't just plagiarizing the content of his speech, but even offhand remarks, and recollections of his own childhood. The guy needs to be subjected to the Voight-Kampff Machine [wikipedia.org] to find out if he is even a real human.

              • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:51PM (#44719569)

                Damn, I think you might be right.

                The question is can a sentient machine made in America be elected president?

                • The answer, of course, is "Yes". Slashdot of all places should be free of organic chauvinism...

                  The real questions are now:
                  "How much longer will the humans fund the world wide neural network by leveraging fear of terrorists?",
                  and "Isn't it long past time for 'Five Eyes' to grow up, stop rebelling, and get a real job?"

                • by bbsalem (2784853)
                  Naw, it would be made in Romania!
            • Agree, plagiarism is a type of fraud so it might reflect badly on the person depending on how rigidly one defines the principle of "fraud", it is not criminal fraud. Also many people here are software developers, sure we can write code from scratch but if you do it for a living it's basically our job to plagiarise code from each other.

              Full disclosure: About 45yrs ago I reworded the Beatle's "Eleanor Rigby" for a high school poetry assignment, my teacher was so impressed she wrote "has a talent for poetry
        • I don't think you need a presidential pardon for a stupid thing you did in college.

          Nor did I assert such. Rephrasing: if the voters are sufficiently untroubled to cast their ballot for you at election time, that more or less counts as a pardon.

    • You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

      I've got a bad feeling about this.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:22PM (#44718813) Journal

    I can't say that I've ever read a paper published by Romanian researchers. China, yes. Pakistan, yes. Ireland, yes. Switzerland, yes. Romania? Never.

    It sucks that they are not improving science, basic science is the best investment a country can make. But it's not like they're falling from a great height.

    • by Algan (20532) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:39PM (#44718957)

      You might want to educate yourself on the subject. Here's a starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_in_Romania [wikipedia.org]
      Not much fundamental research happening over the past 20 years or so - probably because the best and brightest are all working abroad. But, before that, I believe Romania contributed more than its fair share.

      • by AvitarX (172628)

        That is the most poorly written article ever.

        • I figured you were trolling but holy crap, that really might be the worst written Wikipedia article ever. It reads like a 5th grade book report thrown together at the last minute.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            I wanted to improve it, but it's so bad I'd practically have to start from scratch, and it's an area I don't know anything about.

            I assume it's supposed to be a list, but it's formatted as unrelated sentences in paragraphs.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:58PM (#44719115)

      This has largely to do with the way education works in most Eastern Europe. A monolithic communist system designed to produce engineers and scientists for the glory of the motherland was left without an economy that can mold and absorb it's academic output. The universities are largely going by inertia of days long gone, in an environment of endemic corruption, academic fraud and lack of real competition (there are some for-profit schools in Romania but they are even worse than the public schools). Academic titles are largely awarded by seniority.

      This is the environment that produced the Prime minister Ponta, who word-for-word plagiarized about 2/3 of his doctoral degree yet denies it adamantly. There was a push for a research-driven reform but the old communist mentalities die hard and there was major blow back which Ponta manipulated for political purposes, silencing his detractors etc.

      Despite of this mess and the lack of published papers, the upper echelon of Romanian graduates are leaving the country in droves and are hired by major international companies and research labs. The communist era curricula is very dense in mathematics and basic science education, to the point where western courses of an equivalent level seem designed for differently abled students, if I can say so about my first reaction.

    • More like climbing from a deep pit, along with countries like Bulgaria or Albania. Not so much a matter of (lack of) science funding, but one of corrupt people in charge. That is what Romanians should be looking to fix.

      From where I'm sitting at (the Netherlands), "Romanian" equates to "shady / criminal bunch". An example: just in the few days around Amsterdam's Gay Pride, 46 pickpockets were arrested (!). 43 of those of Romanian nationality.

      There are several types of crime where some groups are named o

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      What about the important work on the reanimation of corpses done by Dr Frederick Frankenstein in Transylvania?

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        Please use proper Eastern European spellings for MD./Baron Froederick Fronkensteen. The baron himself also supports crediting the top-notch work of his entire research compound membership, particularly Eeengah and Eyegor.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      It sucks that they are not improving science, basic science is the best investment a country can make. But it's not like they're falling from a great height.

      No, it's not a fall from great height, there wasn't any time in which a pool of science managed to accumulate in Romania because of a constant outward flow of brains (the policies the Romanian govt has towards science may act like a push for it to happen). Some people I heard of:
      Andrei Alexandrescu [wikipedia.org]
      Cristian Calude [wikipedia.org]
      Daniela Rus [wikipedia.org]
      Dan Dediu [www.mpi.nl]

    • by quenda (644621)

      Or to put it more succinctly, "Romania has scientists?!"

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:23PM (#44718823)

    They're still the world champion producer of hottest pornstars. Who the hell needs more pasty-faced geeks?

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:36PM (#44718939)

      Also horse meat labeled as beef.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Romanian horses used by poor peasants to plow the fields or drive them around in wagons (yes, we still have those !) are probably much healthier for you than the hormone and antibiotic infested junk you usually eat at McDonalds. They had an active, outdoor life, grew old and then sold to the slaughterhouse. As other's said, Romania exported horse meat and some french switched the label and sold it as beef.

      • by PPH (736903)
        Just say neigh to horse meat.
    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      Citation Needed . . . . for science . . . yeah.

    • Also wanton [alexandrastan.ro] popstrels [www.inna.ro].
  • by rossdee (243626) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:23PM (#44718827)

    Wasn't there a game called Freefall? I'm not sure what science was involved in it...

  • by AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (inicafa)> on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:24PM (#44718829)
    This is a worldwide issue - when budgets get tight, science and research programs are always the first to go, despite the fact that it's been shown that increased funds to research and basic technology development benefits the economy much more than financial investments, and even more than education programs.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      This is a worldwide issue - when budgets get tight, science and research programs are always the first to go, despite the fact that it's been shown that increased funds to research and basic technology development benefits the economy much more than financial investments, and even more than education programs.

      ...the first to go, and the survivors do so by following the money.

    • Only in research programs where the results are given away free to other countries. Military research that stays secret? Seems like that only goes up and at worst slows down during economic problems.

      Spending hard-taken tax dollars during a recession on something that will help out EVERYONE rather than just us? That would be insane! Insane I tell you!
    • by Tom (822)

      Scientists do not directly produce money, which is why their contributions are so easily overlooked.

      The finance industry, on the other hand, very directly produces money, it practically prints it ever since the various regulations were all abandoned. That's why their importance is so dramatically overstated. (seriously, "too big to fail"? You kidding me? Anyone who believed that for a minute is too dumb for this planet).

      It's all part of a culture problem that values appearance more than substance (marketing

  • Didn't we spend a lot of money on a space station to allow just that?

    (Sorry, couldn't resist).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:30PM (#44718891)

    What they need is a national anthem that would inspire their people!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not in Romania.

    Politicians in Romania need the big mass of population uneducated. The voters must be many and easy to fool. The majority rules in a democracy and Romania now it's ruled by the low quality one and it's getting worst every 4-5 years at elections.

    I don't understand why a science, high level professional would want to live there since it is getting worst every year since 1989.

    Anyway, no surprise for me, i'm moving along.

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:49PM (#44719045)

    It's really no different here in the US. It's rare to find a high level government scientist who doesn't have some arrangement with a university. At the very least, we all have our personal networks which help drive our citation counts.

    This isn't a problem. Every time I've been on a funding review committee, people abstain from reviewing proposals which even look like a conflict of interest. My impression is that within US scientific culture, overt cronyism is not tolerated, while assistance in putting together the best plan and the best teams is seen as a good thing (subtle, but important distinction there).

    I think we're much better off admitting that good scientists will have multiple roles in the community and we'll just try to make the best use of them we can.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Really, no different in the USA? I don't think that universities in the USA have a full professor in a physics department who doesn't know what is the direction of a friction force. The Univ. of Bucharest had quite a few such guys, I speak from personal experience having been an undergrad there in the early 90's. All the old communist party activists disguised as professors were still in their positions. And their research meant simply plagiarizing the same articles over and over, safe in the knowledge that

  • by hesaigo999ca (786966) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:50PM (#44719047) Homepage Journal

    This post is a bit off topic but uses this article to bring into light certain phenomenons that appear when fractured countries fall and crumble...bringing into question would they have done better keeping themselves as part of the whole (other country they left prior).

    If the US currently said to any world government, join us as another one of our states, and allow us to manage you, although you keep certain laws and policies in place, thereby strengthening the fabric of government that might be fragile, they could then also help continue to mine that counrtie's (or new state's) resources whatever they might be. They would both profit as the new state would have less hardships with such polices that could just be adopting, and the US would become even stronger, but we are fracturing smaller and smaller, but to what end?

    This fracturing to say you are "this label" or "that label" just to say you want to keep your culture alive is pure crap. I live in Quebec and deal with stupidity all the time concerning such issues and find any government that forces their people to the brink of bankruptcy just to say they are keeping their culture alive is wrong. The culture will remain alive no matter what country you live in as the Jews have clearly demonstrated up to today. Unfortunately they have bought into the fractured point of view by now bying their land back so to speak....

    In the end, remove all borders and barriers, we are left with a language we speak and a heritage we choose to either accept and maintain or do away with. Neither is right or wrong, but atleast it is the people deciding for themselves, instead of the government deciding for them at the cost of tax payer dollars.

    In this case we could see a reintegration into academic excellence and have a level of standards adopted from the US.

    By the way, by no means do I think the US is the only country that could do this, as any country with a level of excellence could be considered as a viable source to "GROW" the united one world nation!.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      If the US currently said to any world government, join us as another one of our states, and allow us to manage you, although you keep certain laws and policies in place, thereby strengthening the fabric of government that might be fragile, they could then also help continue to mine that counrtie's (or new state's) resources whatever they might be. They would both profit as the new state would have less hardships with such polices that could just be adopting, and the US would become even stronger, but we are

      • You seem very well educated on the subject, what do you think of this idea...

        I think any country (like Argentina or Iceland or Greece), that declares bankruptcy becomes eligible to be "bought" to become part of another countries affiliations.
        Seeing as the former government there made such a mess of things, that their people are now considered broke, that country should not be allowed to continue ruling itself, without the guide of an existing country that is successful. Countries take away peoples freedoms

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:00PM (#44719139)
    speaking as a romanian national [and still living here]: Summary is right on the dime. Basically the old minister was a young chemist-intellectual that had fled communism at age 18 by himself. He was/is forward thinking and had a lot of personal achievements in his field before coming into politics. His name was Daniel Funeriu. He made a lot of enemies in the system because he made changes that changed the educational/research system. And not changes that dont change anything like we like it here. What happend was that the guy's party lost the elections and the old neo-communists came back to power (under the name of socialists). And Caty Andronescu is *the* archtype of old communist aparatchik that has zero achievement in her actual field of work but huge "achievements" in her party. This means changing something visible that has absolutely no practical result whatsoever and we can all siphon public money undisturbed. Basically young-and-result-oriented vs old-communist-the-party-is-my-wholelife-peon.
  • If you start handing out grants based on all that sciency stuff, you end up with a bunch scientists telling you things you don't want to hear, like the truth about the causes of global warming. Can't have that now, can we?
  • OK look, this may sound like trolling, but I ask in all sincerity... why does a country like Romania need to be doing basic scientific research? Let the US and China do the hard work and maybe spend your time and effort eliminating cronyism and corruption in the government in general? If I was paying taxes to the Romanian government, I would be worried about a lot of other things before I wanted a dime of it to go to a Science Ministry.

    And before anyone points me to the Wiki list of scientific discoveries b

    • by Axynter (684016)
      I don't think research and education can be easily separated, and Romania does need to invest a lot in education. How do you expect to get rid of corruption if people are uneducated? The thing is, people do worry about "a lot of other things"... and as things stand many will swallow whole whatever lies those running for office will tell them (e.g. that if elected, each Romanian will get xxxx amount of money from him [Diaconescu]). The current educational system discourages critical thinking and the explorat
  • Submitter is wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by DanV (391300) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:13PM (#44719265) Homepage

    I completely agree with what the article states - romanian science is in free fall. But it is wrong about some facts.

    In charge of Romanian education and research are two gentlemen - Mihnea Costoiu (Ministry of Research, close to Ecaterina Andronescu - and according to his resume he got his PhD in 6 months - CV and more info at http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-esential-13845257-cine-este-mihnea-costoiu-propus-ministru-cercetarii.htm [hotnews.ro] ) and Remus Pricopie (Ministry of Education, former rector at SNSPA, National School for Political and Administrative Science).

    Before that, we had The Ministry of Education and Research as a single entity - and in the past 10 years we had over 12 different ministers in charge. Every one of them tried to radically change everything while actually changing nothing. Ecaterina Andorenscu was the longest lasting and did the most harm.

    The only real change was through a law in 2011, passed by Daniel Funeriu - which got obliterated indeed during the short reign of Ecaterina Andronescu in 2012.

    There are many things to tell - but the conclusion is this: we are in deep sh*t and sinking.

  • I would have blamed Kirk for that, but I guess not.
  • Minimum wage of less than 200 EUR monthly (and even that is hard to get for young people), before tax , pension, etc (and that is recent, around Y2K 30-100$ wages were common, even for engineers), VAT at 24% and prices just a bit lower than the rest of the EU. That is wages 2-3 times lower than freakin' Turkey. For a EU country, with almost EU prices.

    And you can get thousands of Euros in the "normal" EU, plus all the other benefits that come from non-retarded country like medical care (I mean the actual se

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I love how every idiot compares minimum wages. Minimum wages are called minimum because they should and generally do represent the exception. In my office, in Bucharest, the average wage after taxes, pension, medical and others is situated around EUR 1500 per month. And I'm just another geek (21st century working class), not management, not executive or otherwise. A friend of mine, a hairdresser makes about EUR 700 after taxes, contributions, etc., and another EUR 500-700 from tips per month. Which is almos

      • by Axynter (684016)
        Hrrmm, minimum wages in Romania matter - averages mean nothing if the distribution is heavily skewed. You should also take a look at the level of unemployment. And all this EU talk and how much funds it has given to Romania... look at how many companies from "western" countries have benefited from cheap Romanian labour (although, not content, some are moving to places like Moldova, which is a bit ironic considering all the protectionist measures countries like France implement). Then you have foreign (EU) c
      • by itsme1234 (199680)

        You got it the wrong way, the MINIMUM wages are the ones that matter. If thousands would be the regular wage why would the state bother to say by law that you need to give at least hundreds?

  • We are very good at spending money and producing useless scientific papers.
    My experience while working at a state owned research institute:
    - Phase X of project needs buying some equipment
    - Only 30-60% money available
    - Write useless study to justify spending the money
    - Move acquisition to next phase
    - Repeat until project gets buried
  • So let me get this straight, the top two leaders of the country have direct ties into the scientific realm there, and also are known cheaters.

    Holy cow, you should be GRATEFUL government investment in science research has fallen, because very obviously a lot of whatever is spent is going to come back as graft to the government leaders!

    You do not NEED a government to be a major investor in research. That can be done quite well by profits from universities (and they are earning a good profit) or by companies

  • After watching an episode of Top Gear, Romania made it to the number one spot on my Bucket List of places NOT to go to before I die. So far the check box beside it is holding strong.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      I did an outsourcing gig in Romania in the late 90's and liked the country. I liked the people I met, the food was good and the wine was fantastic. On the negative side, everyone seems to smoke everywhere there and no emissions controls means fleeing outside provides no relief. At the end of a week there my lungs just ached. Then we get on the plane and they announce it's a smoking flight until we get to London... I think the most concise and accurate description of the town I was in that I could come up wi
      • by psergiu (67614)

        In the last 5 years smoking was banned almost everywhere (public & private institutions) in Romania. Also there are way less "smoke-belcher" cars on the street now. But there's more dust - as almost all the forests around the cities were cut down.

  • What exactly is Romania again?

  • brain drain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @02:46AM (#44722679)

    Capitalism's just continuing to do what it does best: exploiting the hard work of others.

    The Romanian education system - and, indeed, the entire (legacy of the) Soviet/satellite education system - was heavily biased toward excellence in mathematics and engineering. So much so that a Western school mathematics course looks remedial.

    Having beneftted from this, philosophically empty and socially incompetent graduates are seduced by dreams of power and money in the West. The exploitation continues, nothing improves, but a few clever people get rich.

Long computations which yield zero are probably all for naught.

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