Scholars Resign From Turkish Academy of Sciences

A recent ruling allows the government to appoint members of the prestigious Academy of Sciences  (TÜBA) in Turkey in place of the usual method of election by existing members. The reason given for the change was that the academy membership was a closed club, with members voting in only those in their own circles. Members say that this ruling means the academy loses its autonomy and will undermine scientific standards for admission. In response to the ruling, according to Carter Findley, resignations have begun to pour in on the TÜBA list-serve, including the resignation of a former president of the academy.

16 Responses to “Scholars Resign From Turkish Academy of Sciences”

  1. The gov’t appeared to back down some form the Aug. version of their decision, but not enough. Here:
    I’ll have one more link in the next comment

  2. This is a letter from a TUBA member:
    As far as Google/News knows, only Milliyet has this as and then only as a summary. So we’re down to Lovely.

  3. From the TUBA member’s weepy and threatening resignation letter:

    “Yöneticilerimiz, bilimi lüks olarak görüp, teknolojiyi baş tacı etmeye bir süredir karar verdiler.”

    Well, if I didn’t know better, I too might have believed that there’s blood bath of devotees of pure sciences.
    Or, even that the government is keeping these hard working scientists from doing state-of-the-art cutting-edge theoretical research..
    Of course, it is none of that.
    While the best of them mostly sit on their laurels; the worst are plain waste of the space and the posts they occupy.

    “Evrim bilimi, bir kimyacı olmama rağmen, benim özel ilgi alanımdır, ve 1985 yılında, ABD’de yüksek lisans öğrencisiyken ABD Ulusal Bilimler Akademisinin konu ile ilgili kitapçığını tercüme ettim, ve yayınlattım. Daha sonra TÜBA tarafından yayınlanan 2. baskısı için de katkıda bulundum. Evrim konusundaki tutum, benim için bilim adamlığının Turnusol kağıdıdır. Herhangi bir ikircikli tavrı kabul edemiyorum.”

    Story of Evolution may be important for some; but, it definitely isn’t an acid test for a scientist –one can perfectly well be a scoentist without believig such stories.
    Plus, even though individual members are quite welcome to whatever they believe in, their overriding raison d’etre is to serve the society that paid for their studies by creating solutions that make lives better in the short/medium/long term.
    This they haven’t done. And, story telling does not substitute for that.
    It is shame that most of them will not be missed simply because they have not touched anyone’s life in a positive enough way.

  4. Heh, if the usual people bite, it’ll be a 80+ comment thread here. I won’t.
    Anyway, I didn’t know TUBA paid (TRL) 20k a year to its members. Celal Sengor says so and says that’s why some members won’t quit:
    I wonder what, if anything, other government/national academies pay their members. I thought it was something for prestige etc. and didn’t include pay for members who don’t actively do work.

  5. OH, they have public a notice on their web page (in English) with links to messages — in support — they got from other national academies:
    There’s nothing really preventing these people (who quit) from starting their own, independent organization. It would be a good thing if they did so, I think. It won’t be a ‘national’ organization, perhaps, but these things can be done w/o gov’t involvement. AAAS, American Academy of Arts and Sciences etc. are all independent, old and OK, AFAIK. For computer science, ACM, which is also independent, gives the Turing award, which is prestigious enough in the field.

  6. Türkiye Bilimler Akademisi tarafından “Yabancı Ders Kitaplarının Türkçe’ye Çevirisi Projesi” adıyla, 2002 yılında başlatılan program [..]

    Actually, I’d be too ashamed to mention this all together: In 9 years, all they have managed to translate is a grand total of 8 (eight) books.
    Another thing they proudly talk about is a scientific dictionary ( ).
    Trouble is, in their great wisdom, they made it a closed site –you can’t look up a thing unless you register, and login each time you need it.
    As a result, I have no idea how rich or ridiculously poor it is –they don’t mention how many terms/words it consists of either, which should be telling.
    Let’s do the math:
    Established in 1993 –that’s 18 years ago– with 140 members.
    Each member gets paid 20K TL (~$11,500) a year.
    IOW, in salaries alone, they have cost the taxpayer ~30 million USD.
    And.. what do they have to show for 30 million USD?
    And, on top of that, they have the cheek to SELL the few books and reports they produced on tax payers money.
    I don’t buy “they want us because we’re Kemalist/Evolutionist” spin they are trying to put on: It isn’t a ‘Science Academy’, it is an ‘arpalik’.

  7. CA,
    I don’t buy “they want us because we’re Kemalist/Evolutionist” spin they are trying to put on: It isn’t a ‘Science Academy’, it is an ‘arpalik’.
    Those are not mutually exclusive, our arpalik vs. their arpalik strife also happens. (We’ve seen it — unsurprisingly — with YOK, judiciary etc.)
    Don’t know, really, just linking stuff in here. AFAIK the money thing isn’t being touched anyway.

  8. the 20k salary detail makes it obvious enough why the government wishes to control appointments…

    this feels an awful lot like other situations where the outcry is less about substantive abuses of power, but more about those who have long been in a position to benefit from opaque government programs, now being tossed aside and replaced by individuals connected to the ‘new’ power-holders.

    Not saying that this story does not highlight a creepy AK attempt to co-opt power, just saying that the critical perspective from the resigning members is unproductive-

    it (and this stands for much of the discourse streaming from the Kemalist formerly-establishment establishment) does not criticize the systematic or structural abuses of power. Instead it whines about being excluded from that system. which is why they sound/are so hollow and irrelevant.

  9. Meliz, yes. What the state gives, it can also take away. We all know what kind of country we are living in. If these people don’t, I’ll remind them that they are already working under a hierarchy headed by Prof. Tomato and founded by the-one-who-cannot-be-called-a-plagiarist-only-because-he-got-a-judgment-about-that. Official ‘prestige’ under these circumstances is iffy anyway and it was perhaps made less iffy by that 20k/yr. When they start their sentences by ‘no national academy on earth’, are we wrong to wonder if they’d even tell us which ones pay regular annual salaries to their fellows regardless of what’s done for the institution? 20k/yr. is a lot of money for this country.
    OTOH, if Murat Belge’s account is to be believed, when the YOK law was passed only four (4) people immediately resigned in protest. (I should also point out Belge himself who did resign is now working under the same law.) If 45 resignations happened, that may be a change. I doubt it’ll cause a reversal, though. In any event, this is the country and gov’t we got and I’d rather see people make noises than glorify state academy memberships, official titles etc.

  10. Might as well link this in too, this is from the great people of Vakit/Akit:

  11. I’ll also add something from (for those who care: respected, esteemed, accomplished, Turing award winner etc. etc.) Don Knuth:
    “I have always liked the concept of universities as they were in Ancient Greece, where folks who had something cool to say would just come and say it. It wasn’t about recognition; the impetus was the thought that you were resonating with ideas.”
    From here:
    Oh, and, Knuth is a serious Christian. I have not heard anyone in the CS circles hold that against him. (This is why I have a hard time believing the talk — in the US — about religious people having to hide that side of themselves in universities, perhaps CS is an exception?).

  12. So.. it must, then, be an atheist conspiracy that his lectures cannot be viewed unless you have MS Silverlight.

  13. Gates gave a lot of money to Stanford/CS. I leave it up to your unique talents to construct the conspiracy theory. I’ll just say we’re lucky we don’t have an MS TeX with stupid animated paper clips and other annoyances passed off has great features.
    Knuth is better when he writes, I think (I have watched stuff from him). I do recommend his books (Art of Computer Programming). Going by my own experience, they take longer to read and attempt the exercises than it took (will take, it is ongoing) for him to write/finish them (I’m not done). He writes very well, though. Here:

  14. Do we really need talents of conspiracy? Hasn’t it already been documented enough?

    About Knuth: Well, yes, he writes better than he speaks –but only marginally, IMO.

    I have tried to read AoCP and I vividly remember the experience of being recklessly humbled.

  15. […] Scholars Resign From Turkish Academy of Sciences […]

  16. […] designate TÜBA members (who were formerly comparison by their peers) has stirred many scholars to resign, observant a academy’s autonomy has been threatened. Critics of a pierce also assign that a […]

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment