Turkish gov’t aims to bring researchers back home after dismissing thousands of them

A program to bring Turkish researchers back home will be launched on Dec. 15, said Mustafa Varank, Turkey’s Technology and Industry Minister on Wednesday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The International Fellowship for Outstanding Researchers program aims to attract top-level researchers to make contributions to projects with strategic value, Varank said at the opening ceremony of a smart technologies exhibition, Smart Future Expo 2018, in İstanbul.

Varank said the program, which is a pioneer in terms of the opportunities provided to researchers, would be conducted in coordination with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). The program will also include foreign researchers and provide incentives in eight fields, Varank added.

The ministry is planning to pay a monthly salary of TL 20,000 ($3,600) to young researchers and TL 24,000 ($4,400) to more experienced professionals, along with allowances for families and doctoral students for each research project.

However, the same minister said on Monday that the Turkish government has dismissed 1,289 employees of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Responding to questions from members of Parliament, Varank said the dismissal of these individuals took place between Dec. 17, 2013 and Oct. 31, 2018. Dec.17, 2013 refers to the eruption of a corruption scandal in Turkey in which senior government members were implicated.

The Turkish government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames the Gülen movement for both the corruption investigation and a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, while the movement strongly denies any involvement in either. The government launched a witch-hunt targeting the group following the abortive putsch.

Turkey’s former Minister of Science, Industry and Technology Faruk Özlü had announced on March 3, 2017, that a total of 1,846 people had been sacked from TÜBİTAK due to their alleged links to Gülen movement. TÜBİTAK has around 4,500 employees.

The minister said the firing of employees at TÜBİTAK and the ministry began in February 2014 following the revelation of a corruption scandal in which senior government members were involved in late 2013.

President Erdoğan recently complained that no Turkish university was included among the top 500 worldwide, suggesting that newly founded universities should be filled with bright academics.

After the coup attempt in 2016, Turkey purged some 4,500 academics from state and private universities. According to a report by Deutsche Welle Turkish service, almost 70,000 university students were in jail in Turkey as of January 2018. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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