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Turkey’s scientists leave TÜBA to set up alternative academy

Turkish scientists are resigning en masse from the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) to set up an alternative organisation.

Since its foundation in 1993 TÜBA has been attached to the office of the prime minister, but retained administrative autonomy. But on 2 November the Turkish government announced it wanted to handle TÜBA appointments and administration directly. Following this announcement, many of Turkey’s leading researchers say TÜBA cannot offer them the independence they need.

According to a government statement, one-third of all members are to be appointed by Turkey’s governmental scientific council Tübitak. The government will also choose TÜBA’s president from a shortlist of three members.

As Research Europe went to press on 7 November, 58 scientists had already resigned from the 140-strong academy. According to former TÜBA members this will increase by another 20 or so over the coming weeks. The scientists plan to set up their own, independent organisation called Science Academy Society.

“In the next month, we are trying to organise the founders and the executive committee,” says Metin Gürses, a mathematician at Turkey’s Bilkent University, who has resigned from TÜBA. “So far we have no financial support, only the membership fees. But we are planning for some funding to come in. All will be clearer in the next two to three months.”

Gürses says that all scientists who are current or former members of TÜBA will automatically be offered membership of the new organisation.

Over the past two months, many other national academies have written to the Turkish government to criticise what they perceived as a takeover of TÜBA. Those scientists setting up a TÜBA alternative hope that the international support will allow the Science Academy Society to be accepted quickly in the international science community.

However, the new organisation may not immediately be recognised by other academies, according to Jerzy Langer, the foreign secretary of Academia Europaea, an organisation set up to be a science academy for Europe. “People have a tendency to wait and see,” he says.

Indeed, national academies contacted by Research Europe, including the Leopoldina and the Royal Society, said they would not comment until the situation in Turkey became clearer.