'What I understand from the government's attitude is that the country does not need science'

In a recent address at the general meeting of the National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), Minister of Science and Education Emin Amrullayev sparked debate by proposing an alternative approach to addressing the plight of young scientists in Azerbaijan. Instead of providing housing, he suggested bolstering salaries to empower scientists to purchase homes and find motivation in their work. This statement comes against a backdrop of longstanding grievances within Azerbaijan's scientific community regarding inadequate financial support and housing provisions.

Over the years, concerns about the exodus of young scientists from Azerbaijan due to insufficient material support have reverberated throughout the country. The statistics from the State Statistics Committee, dating back to 2015, paint a concerning picture. While the number of researchers with scientific degrees stands at 7,690 individuals, only a fraction of them receive adequate financial compensation and housing support.

The allocation of 228.8 million Manats from the state budget for science development in 2024 represents a slight increase from previous years. However, critics argue that this incremental rise falls short of addressing the fundamental challenges faced by scientists in Azerbaijan.

Yasamal Garagoyunlu, a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, highlights the glaring disparity between the salaries of administrative staff and practicing scientists within ANAS: «What I understand from the government's attitude is that the country does not need science.» Despite administrative raises, scientists' salaries remain woefully inadequate, with many struggling to afford housing in Baku's increasingly expensive rental market. Garagoyunlu's personal testimony underscores the pervasive challenges faced by scientists who dedicate their careers to advancing knowledge in Azerbaijan.

In response to these concerns, Jeyhun Mammadov, a Member of the Committee on Science and Education of the Milli Majlis, in a comment for Turan, acknowledges the legitimacy of the complaints, advocating for a reevaluation of scientists' salaries. Mammadov acknowledges the critical role of financial incentives in attracting and retaining talent within the scientific community, emphasizing the need for decisive action to bolster scientists' socioeconomic standing.

Education expert Kamran Asadov echoes these sentiments, emphasizing the detrimental impact of low salaries on both recruitment and research output. In an interview with Azadlig Asadov Radio, Asadov contends that improving scientists' financial stability should be prioritized, suggesting measures such as low-interest loans and preferential mortgages to alleviate housing concerns.

The broader consensus among experts and stakeholders is clear: meaningful reforms are necessary to address the systemic challenges plaguing Azerbaijan's scientific community. Without adequate financial support and housing provisions, the country risks losing its brightest minds to brain drain and stagnating scientific progress. As policymakers deliberate on strategies for science development, prioritizing the welfare and empowerment of scientists should remain paramount in ensuring Azerbaijan's continued scientific advancement.

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