Where do we stand in science?
Head of Council of Higher Education (YÖK) Professor Yekta Saraç made an academic visit to Iran with a group of scientists. I had a telephone conversation with him on the exceptionally remarkable achievements of Iran in the scientific field. Saraç was sorry that while Iran was leaping forward in science, we were not able to show the same performance.
The other day, Orhan Bursalı from daily Cumhuriyet wrote that specifically with scientific publications in the “nanotechnology” field, Iran was the seventh in the world while Turkey was 20th.
Nanotechnology is the most advanced level of technology that controls the smallest particle of matter. It is one of the most determinant fields from space to health, to chemistry, to agriculture.
Iran was once quite behind us in scientific publications, but in 2011 it caught up with Turkey and passed it.
According to data I requested from Saraç, published scientific articles’ “impact” coefficient (in other words, the way papers in the science world are rated on their effectiveness) South Africa is 1.1 and Brazil is 0.76, while India and Iran have a coefficient of 0.75. Turkey’s is 0.68.
Turkey is, of course, more advanced than Iran in fields such as medicine and engineering but what is remarkable in Iran is the acceleration of scientific development.
Mullahs and science
Does Iran have more democracy than Turkey? No, it does not. Iran is ruled by mullahs, right? Correct. Well, then, how come “the mullahs” make Iran so advanced in one of the most important scientific branches such as nanotechnology?
It is obvious that for science we have to let go of certain ideological patterns. The most important factor for the development of science is that the organization of science institutes should be good and resources should be allocated.
Don’t just say, “They are mullahs;” a considerable number of them have Ph.D. degrees from Western universities.
In Iran, there are qualified academics and researchers educated in Western universities. The regime has known how to guide and steer them.
In our conversation with Professor Saraç, he emphasized the concept of “elite universities.”
He said, “It is not possible for every university to develop in every field at the same level. Certain universities should become elite scientific institutions adequately qualified to compete with the world in certain fields.”
He seconded late Professor Mümtaz Tarhan’s argument from the 1960s that the locomotive of development or, in Tarhan’s terms, “becoming westernized,” can only be with “first-class scientists.”
Therein lays the roots of the Far East miracle. It is also essential for Iran’s achievement.
It is again for this reason that “lowering the level” of institutions and environments enabling the development of science is the biggest harm to science and the country.
Saraç drew attention to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s “5 in 100” program, which is an academic program that aims to enable five Russian universities to enter the top 100 “most elite universities” in the world.
Yes, YÖK is aiming that certain universities of ours that demonstrate performances near international standards in certain fields reach the level of “elite” universities in the world in research and graduate areas.
Politics should not inject populism into this field.