The current administration of TUBITAK, the Turkish counterpart of NSF/DFG/CNRS, has decided to close down the Feza Gursey Institute (FGI), Turkey’s only institute devoted to research in theoretical physics and mathematics. Feza Gursey Institute was founded in 1996 under the leadership of many prominent Turkish scientists, including Turkish Academy of Sciences members Yavuz Nutku, Ismail Hakki Duru, Ayşe Erzan, Erdal İnönü, Selman Akbulut and Tosun Terzioğlu, then the head of TUBITAK. The FGI was designed to bring Turkish scientists in stronger contact with their colleagues in Turkey and in other countries through mutual visits, conferences, workshops, advanced schools and postdoctoral positions. It was unique in hosting a truly international staff that included Russians, Americans, Azeris, Moroccans, Japanese, Italians and Swedes at various times, in addition to Turks. It helped expose graduate students and other young researchers to current topics through lectures and seminars by eminent academics such as Gary Gibbons, Malcolm Perry, Sean Carroll, Robion Kirby, Selman Akbulut, Mete Soner, Michael Berry, Philip Argyres, Nihat Berker, Randjbar-Daemi, O’Raifeartaigh, Robert Langlands, Sergei Novikov and many others too numerous to mention. Some of these courses were picked up by leading scientific publishers. For example, “Conformal Field Theory”, edited by Yavuz Nutku et al., was published by Perseus, and “Geometry and Integrability” by Yavuz Nutku, Lionel Mason and Nigel Hitchin, by the Cambridge University Press. Terry Gannon acknowledges that his Cambridge monograph “Moonshine beyond the Monster” resulted from lectures he delivered at the FGI. A. Starobinsky, V. Mukhanov, K. Olive and R. Wald were among the lecturers on schools on Cosmology and gravitation organized by A.Aliev.
For many scientists in Turkey, a short or longer term visit to the FGI provided a temporary relief from the heavy teaching duties and scientific isolation at their permanent institutions. They could learn about the most recent advances in string theory, algebraic geometry, Monstrous moonshine, or conformal field theory without the practical difficulties of finding a position abroad or relocating. In short, it functioned as a small-scale ICTP. In fact, in 2001, a joint ICTP-FGI summer school on String theory was held at the FGI, with students from countries as diverse as Iran and Korea, and lecturers from Italy, Argentina and Australia. However, just like the ICTP, the FGI did not limit its activities to the highly theoretical subjects like the ones mentioned, but tried to appeal to wider audiences. In 2010 for example, 24 meetings were organized for a total of about a thousand attendees at all levels. The subjects covered a wide and eclectic range including Climate physics, Motivic themes in algebraic geometry, a course on mechanics for advanced high school students, other courses on nuclear dynamics and phase transitions, etc. In terms of research output, FGI’s full-time and part-time members, which numbered about 30 at the maximum, and then systematically brought down to 4 recently, managed to produce on average close to two papers per person per year and 350 in total, receiving about 2000 citations. To give a few examples about the significance of the research, we may mention Cem Yıldırım’s joint work with Dan Goldston on the distribution of twin primes, Nutku’s papers with Aliev and others on gravitational instantons, and Aliev’s work on higher dimensional black holes.
The motives of the current TUBITAK administration that has been in power since 2004 for closing down the FGI are mysterious, but their strategy is clear: Gradually starve the institute of funds and personnel, then accuse it of inefficiency and close it down. This is similar to applying a tourniquet to a limb until gangrene sets in, and then claim the only “cure” is amputation. They would protest that their only intention is to make it function better, but moving it to a very isolated industrial research campus at Gebze, an industrial wasteland 60 kilometers outside Istanbul, would hardly allow it to stay in contact with Istanbul universities, let alone attract international visitors and lecturers. The present campus of the FGI is quite centrally and attractively located on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, in a perfectly adequate building put at its disposal for free by Bogazici University on the European side.
The lack of understanding about the real mission of FGI is further evidenced by the plan to turn it into a sub-unit of a new institute devoted to Informatics and Data Safety. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the 2010 budget of TUBITAK amounted to 1 billion USD of which 200 million USD remained unspent. The FGI consumed only 1.3 million USD of the total! It is obvious that waste and scientific underperformance at the FGI are not the real problems. One truly wonders what it is.
(1) Maybe Prof. Nüket Yetiş would be able to explain it to you if you wrote her
(2) Please also reach:
- the Minister of Science, Industry and Technology, Nihat Ergün,
- his head of staff, Emin Asıltürk,
- and the Deputy Undersecretary, Dr. Hüsnü Tekin
Minister of Science, Industry and Technology, Nihat Ergün
Phone: +90 312 219 69 69
Fax: +90 312 219 67 45
Deputy Undersecretary, Dr. Hüsnü Tekin
Phone: +90 312 219 62 95
Fax: +90 312 219 68 22
Better fax your concerns… Please contact Save Feza Gursey via firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to send a copy of your emails and faxes to email@example.com
(3) You can consider signing the petition on our website too!