NEWS

Greece lags behind rest of EU in research and technology

Research in Greece is still at an embryonic stage, lagging behind the other members of the European Union, and in last place with regard to state investment in research and technology, as well as regarding state expenditure on education. About 8,000 Greek scientists – including students, assistant and full professors as well as scientists working for research institutes – have moved abroad in order to further their work. Moreover, at the major Greek universities, up to half of all research or doctorate programs are never completed. No wonder some of the country’s best and brightest prefer to go abroad, since in Greece, they are only paid a small sum for the number of hours worked. According to Assistant Professor Lazaros Apekis of the National Technical University’s school of physics, in view of the lack of a national policy, university researchers are forced to think up needs in the Greek economy, together with some private firm, in order to seek funding for applied research. Trailing behind According to information provided by Professor Petros Groubos of Patras University, director of the university’s Robotics and Automation Laboratory: – The ratio of researchers in Greece is just 3.7 for every 1,000 members of the work force, putting Greece in 14th place among the current 15 members of the EU. Greece is also far behind the EU average of 5.8 per 1,000. «The data shows the country’s degree of interest in the Society of Knowledge and Technology,» said Groubos. Apart from the State Scholarship Foundation, there are not many other sources of scholarships to which outstanding graduates can take recourse. The regular budget provided compensation of up to 6 euros an hour, with a maximum of 125 hours every semester. Meanwhile, in Greece, doctoral students are not covered by social security while they are working to complete their dissertations, in contrast to Western Europe and the US, where time spent on a doctorate counts toward one’s pension, a considerable incentive for a researcher,» added Groubos. «The duration of a postgraduate degree can be from four to five years, so naturally, a considerable dropout rate is to be expected. At some universities, it is as high as 50 percent.» – Greece lags behind other EU countries in scientific publications. There are about 340 publications per million in the population, compared to the EU average of 613 per million. «The picture Greece presents in this sector is also the result of the lack of incentives for researchers. In Greece, annual average pay for a university faculty member is about 16,420 euros, the lowest among the 15 member states,» said Groubos. «In Portugal, which is in 14th place, the average salary is 24,560 euros. In Germany, which tops the list, the corresponding figure is 37,060 euros. A similar situation prevails in the US, since university lecturers are excused from teaching in order to work on research programs. In Greece, the only benefit one has from publishing is an improvement in one’s academic rank,» he added. – As for the number of applications for patents, based on current data, only 5.18 applications per one million of the population are made. The professor attributes this to the high cost of submitting an application. Meanwhile, there is no information available as to how researchers can make use of the results of their work. Fund shortage is one of the main problems Fewer funds are spent on research in Greece than in any other EU member state. Just 3.7 percent of GDP is spent on education, compared to the EU average of 4.6 percent, and just 0.67 percent is allocated for public investment in research (1.91 percent is the EU average), and 1.2 percent of the GDP on technology (versus an EU average of 4.2 percent). European funds are the main source of funding. According to Apekis, about 60 percent of funds for research come from the EU, 10 percent from the General Secretariat for Research and Technology, 25 percent from public organizations and ministries, and 5 percent from private firms. «Unfortunately there is no national policy for funding basic research. It has been years since ‘pure disciplines’ such as physics, mathematics or social sciences have received funding. «For example, a political economy department has no chance of getting funding unless it creates a finance program in order to get the cooperation of a credit institution,» Apekis explained. That is, a university has to make competitive proposals that are oriented toward applied research. However, this approach detracts from the university’s role as a research institution. Things are made difficult because of the structure of the Greek economy. Given that the average Greek firm is not interested in research, universities are forced to think up needs for them in order to carry out a program,» said Apekis.