Can development of science be possible by easing academic criteria?

Can development of science be possible by easing academic criteria?

A law proposal to change the prerequisites for academic titles is passing through parliamentary procedures, sadly without adequate debates among academic circles and in the public.

The first eight articles, including the foremost changes, of the 36-article proposal were approved at the general assembly of the Turkish Parliament on Feb. 21. Negotiations on the rest of the articles have been going on.

Replacing the title of “assistant professor” with “doctor faculty member” is one of the most important changes in the proposal. Another proposed change is to remove the condition of “passing the foreign language exam,” as indicated in the Council of Higher Education Law, for the prospective academics who will get that title. Thus, they may start working as faculty members easily without foreign language skills.

Adding to this, the necessary level of foreign language proficiency for an associate professor is proposed to be eased. In present, to achieve the associate professor title it is necessary to get 65 points in the exam but in the proposal, the level will be lowered to 55 points. Likewise remarkably, halting the obligation of an oral examination before a panel of professors to get the title of associate professor is proposed. Instead, a panel of five people appointed by the Inter-University Council is supposed to review the publications of the prospective associate professors and decide to entitle the candidate or not.

One of the main topics opposition MPs focused on during debates in parliament was the latter proposal. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers expressed reservation, saying that the method of evaluating and reporting without a face-to-face meeting with the candidate may increase the risks of plagiarism and presentation of publications written by others.

A Feb. 19-dated Science Academy report also includes serious warnings on the law proposal.

“[The new legislation] will be inadequate in terms of achieving the objective of increasing the number of high-skilled academics in Turkey,” the report said, raising concerns that the law proposal was “drawn up without intensive work and discussion.”

“As it is reflected in the press, it is widely accepted that foreign language skills are deemed as unnecessary and even as a preventive factor against creating a ‘national’ science. However, a crucial point needs to be underlined here: Science is universal. It is impossible to determine the standards in a science environment isolated from the world and limited with national borders. It is essential to assess and position the information production in accordance with the international scientific levels,” the report added.

“Scholars in Turkey should do the research work on their fields according to the highest standards in the world and they should be capable of competing with self-confidence. The positive examples show that it is possible. It is unacceptable to provide education in fundamental/basic sciences by ruling out the level of development in the world and do less research and scientific publication than the applied sciences that directly affect the society. Because the graduates educated by these professors will determine the educational level, productivity and prosperity of the society,” it said.

Sedat Ergin, hdn, Opinion