More time for science

In the ongoing Ergenekon investigations, a few professors from different universities were arrested. Whether or not they are really in the gang, I have no idea (who does?), but it has puzzled me for a long time why it is that Turkish universities are hardly ever in the news for scientific reasons. After the arrests last week, there were protests by colleagues in various cities, and other university colleagues making strong statements about the whole Ergenekon trials being purely political. Previously, Turkish professors mainly made it into the news when they objected to rector appointments, for example because the appointments were alleged to be also political, or for example when they gave their opinions about women wearing the headscarf. Many Turkish academics are, it is clear, part of the secular Kemalist establishment, just like the judiciary and the army. And while defending their place in society, they sometimes seem to forget what is really the role of academics: to promote knowledge by teaching and research. Wouldn’t it be nice if all these professors spent less time discussing and meddling in politics and dedicated more time to science, so they would make it into the news with their scientific accomplishments? They would even kill two birds with one stone. For one they would raise their own scientific status and that of their university and Turkey. And two, they would strengthen the scientific base of society, which is what Atatürk, whom they admire so much, always pleaded for.

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