The Balkan Physical Union (BPU) is an independent association composed of national physical societies in the Balkan area (Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, FYR Macedonia, Turkey, Romania and Yugoslavia). Its main goals are the promotion of collaboration between physicists of the member countries, a better understanding of the problems specific to each of our countries, the rise of the scientific and educational standards and increasing the role of the physical sciences for the general progress of society.
The Balkan Physical Union acts both as an individualised
Organisation and through its member national societies. Its activity
is focused mainly on problems specific to the Balkan region as part of a united
Europe and of the world.
The object of this Manifesto is to inform the public and those in authority of the role of Science in general and Physics in particular, and to make specific recommendations for strengthening the Science Base in Balkan countries.
The world enters a new millennium with justifiable hopes for a safe, peaceful and dignified existence in a clean environment. As the population increases, both in number and demands, society must find ways to satisfy the requirements and the pressure of a densely populated planet more and more depleted of the conventional natural resources. These hopes can only be materialised by a strong presence of science in every day life and by a scientific approach to the development. Physics is a very important science which offers solutions to many particular problems such as energy, environment protection, communication, health. It is the choice of the society at large how to make use of these solutions and how much it is prepared to back - up the scientific endeavour.
Concerned by the fact that there is a visible inequality in the attention given to science in general in various countries and that science is hardly a priority of governments and their factual policies as compared with the developed European countries, Balkan Physical Union considers it its duty to draw the attention of the authorities responsible for economic, social, scientific and cultural policy, to these discontinuities and differences of support and perception of science.
There are many arguments that sustain such a statement: the low share of the GNP offered to the scientific research and to education, the weak mediatization of scientific achievements, the weak official scientific advice at high levels of power, etc. Many argue that in the end scientific results, once obtained and released in the developed countries, will permeate into our countries. This is partially true – after some time the scientific and technological progress spreads out, mainly when it passes into the business phase. However such an approach condemns these countries to a permanent lag behind the technologically advanced societies and makes it more difficult for the wealth-creating ‘high-tech’ industries to form.
Science is an international patrimony and each country must ensure the conditions for an optimum support of scientific and technological research and education. Without such a support a country excludes itself, at least temporarily, from the benefits of science and from a full partnership recognition. Though basically scientific progress has been determined by people from the entire world, including our area, one should recognise that relatively few countries were capable to transfer knowledge into goods. The extent of public support and the way the financial resources are shared between various domains are entirely options of each fund distributor (country), but the total amount of GNP share for science must be close to that in the developed counties. While GNP exceeds 2 % in West European countries, it is well under 0.3 % in all of our countries. Until this elementary requirement is satisfied, other actions, including the much-discussed evaluation, are elusive. A system under stress acts differently from normal. On the other hand the increase of the attraction to science of the young generation is paramount. While more than 0.6 % of the working population in USA and Japan and 0.3 % in West_Europe is engaged in science and new-technology related areas, the figure for Balkan countries are ten times less. This is a very serious problem that affects not only the present, but the future as well. Although it is not an object, here, to enter the political domain it should be noted nations which have strong domestic science bases and the associated advice that scientists can give, are more likely to succeed in deliberations between nations. Since science is entering into an increasing number of deliberations the need for a strong science base will become even greater. The rewards far outweigh the investment.
The Balkan area is the cradle of science. Between Attica and
Pontus Euxtin lived thousands of eminent people; here philosophy, geography,
geometry, music as science, anatomy, in fact every branch of modern science,
were invented and many basic ideas were not changed in the two millennia and a
half that passed.
After the vicissitudes of the last centuries the Balkan finds itself into a new environment which is mainly the product of science. Countries which now enjoy a strong economy and a high standard of living, which are called ‘developed countries’, had, in time, the expertise and awareness to support both basic research and the conversion of knowledge into marketable cheap products. Now there is a chance for us, the Balkan countries, to narrow the gap. This chance is called globalization and regional collaboration. Globalization in science has two aspects: a direct international co-operation in the agreed programs and a healthy home research base and education logistics and programs. All our countries are entirely European; there are many sectors of our research structures, academic and institutional, strongly coupled to the mainstream of research in the continent and there are individuals of internationally recognised reputation leading programs on a European scale. However the situation is far from satisfactory.
In the following we propose a set of actions of high
priority and submit them to the attention of the authorities of each BPU member
We urge the following:
stronger public support of the
society for science in general and physics as basic science in particular,
materialised in a fair share of the GNP for research in institutes and
universities. Under no circumstances should the budget for science be under 1%
of the GNP and this must be implemented urgently,
an awareness for the necessity
of more pronounced science programs in schools, colleges and universities,
including technical universities,
attraction of the most talented
children towards science, and science related professions. For that, professions
such as mathematician, physicist, researcher in chemistry, biology, agriculture,
technology, should offer, besides the intellectual satisfaction, a decent
standard of living and a secure
perspective in his/her country,
science oriented programs
promoted by the large impact media (radio, television) on a national scale; it
is recognised that real science information and popularisation penetrate with
difficulties in the topics of journals, television, etc., while sensational
non-scientific, fictional statements are readily promoted. For this situation
our community share a part of the guilt.
special appeal is made towards
the mass-media to sustain initiatives
that will contribute to a better information and understanding of the scientific
progress (mainly physics, but in other sciences, too) in the Balkan countries
and the role that physics performed in our area plays in solving essential
problems of our existence - environment, communication, information, new
materials, energy, seismology, art and historic heritage conservation)
we appeal to our own community
to regard physics both as a search for fundamental laws of nature, driven by the
curiosity, talent and insight of the scientists, but also as a duty to respond
to specific needs of society. Areas
such as environmental physics, medical physics, physics for biology, physics for
agriculture and many others, are fully entitled to be considered plain physics
areas. This dichotomy, which in fact exists objectively, offers to physics its
real dimension and the real public recognition and motivation for support.
Balkan Physical Union trusts that the actions listed in this
manifesto will be followed by real measures aimed at strengthening the status of
science and of scientists in each of our countries.
Balkan Physical Union is ready to offer its expertise and
counselling, if requested, in any matter that regards either strict science
problems, or science policy. No one knows better these problems than the
scientists themselves. And there are more than 10000 peoples working in physics,
researchers in national laboratories, academic physicists, industrial physicists
and a few involved in the mass media.
At the same time Balkan Physical Union is concerned with
anything relevant to the welfare and needs of our people: humanitarian aspects,
poverty, peace, dignity, freedom of conscience, etc. We always have acted, and
we think with good results, in the spirit of trust, of mutual understanding, of
friendship, of helpfulness and of peace. We consider a task of honour that of
contributing to build bridges among pluralistic societies, of different
religious, cultures and economic standards. This is our contribution to a new
Europe; indeed, the Balkan countries have the possibility of acting as an
example to the rest of the world.
of behalf of the representatives of the national societies of physicists from
Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, FYR Macedonia, Turkey, Romania and Yugoslavia
Professor Christos Zerefos