Greek scientists are angry and incredulous at what they see as a double-pronged government attack on the country's research system: the confiscation of research funding to plug a hole in Greece's ever worsening finances, and a new reform of higher education that they say will make universities more politicized and less meritocratic.
The cash seizure was authorized in an emergency decree passed by Greece's Parliament in a heated and emotional session last week. The decree forces local government and other state bodies to transfer their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece in order to pay salaries and pensions of public-sector employees. As Science went to press, it remained unclear exactly how much money would be targeted and when it would be taken, but researchers expect the government to grab funds set aside to pay for overheads. These amount to as much as 20% of the value of grants and pay for utility bills and temporary staff as well as expenses that are not covered up front by research agencies.
Costas Fotakis, research minister in the government coalition led by the left-wing Syriza Party, describes the move as an "interim measure" that will place the money in accounts with high interest rates of 2.5% and return it later. "We do hope that a fair agreement in the ongoing negotiations for the Greek debt will be reached soon, by the end of June," he said in an e-mail. "Then this measure will be waived."