Croatian scientists said at a round table in Zagreb on Friday that science facilitated development and that the policy of constant cutting of funds for science should stop.
Opening the event, organised by the national union of workers in the science sector, Assistant Science Minister Kreso Zadro said that apart from cuts in funding for student transportation, there had been no other reductions of science funds but rather changes of budget items through which they were covered.
Science Union leader Igor Radeka said that cuts in funding for science and human resources were constant and that that situation could not be sustained in the long run.
When the crisis broke out in 2008, most countries listened to the European Commission's recommendation not to reduce funds for science because it is a lever of development, Radeka said, adding that "all Croatian science ministers act as if they were bankruptcy commissioners." A radical change should finally be made, he said.
Jadranka Svarc of the Ivo Pilar Institute said that scientists lacked funds for operating costs such as those related to stationery and data bases. Investments in science are being reduced and the number of scientists is decreasing, but there is also a lack of awareness in which direction the world is going, she said.
Maja Vehovec of the Institute of Economics said that Croatia had proven relatively good in absorbing EU funds for science but that those funds could not replace national investments in that sector. She agreed that Croatia needed more rational spending but not so that it affects the science sector.
Ivica Puljak of the Faculty of Computing, Mechanical and Naval Engineering in Split said the current message to science was that it did not matter. He noted that scientists were the most responsible for this because they "shape that system."
The head of the Steering Board of the Science Foundation, Dario Vretenar, said that budget funds for the foundation amounted to HRK 81 million and that the foundation's costs totalled HRK 92 million.
There were no investments in new projects in the past three years, which is intolerable for a country as small as Croatia. A previous plan was to finance around 600 projects through the Foundation that would have involved 1,200 young people, but now the number of projects stands at around 410, with their financing having been discontinued, Vretenar said, adding that Croatia had been left without doctoral students.
At the same time, 1,300 new people who are not scientists have been admitted to the science sector, he said.
Kristijan Vlahovicek of the Zagreb Faculty of Science called for financing competitive science, capable of development projects, while Petar Pervan of the Institute of Physics sees a lack of vision as a much bigger problem.
The new government should say if it backs the science strategy and if it does, it should continue adopting documents that will enable the system to function, he said.
Vilim Ribic of the MHS union federation said that salaries in the science sector had been reduced by 11-30% in recent years, warning against any further cuts.