Turkey launching national researchers programme amid brain drain

Turkey is set to launch a new programme in 2020 next year to support the country’s scientists and researchers amid a brain drain following government crackdown on intellectuals in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt.

The initiative, announced by Technology and Industry Minister Musafa Varank on Monday, aims to increase Turkey’s share in the production and export of technology and to create global brands, state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Varak as saying on Monday. 

“We are launching the National Leading Researchers Program. We will call for it in January,” Varank said at a science awards event between Turkey's Academy of Sciences (TUBA) and Turkey's Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) in  Ankara.

Since the failed coup of July 2016, in which more than 250 people were killed, a wave of emigration from Turkey has gained speed, particularly among the country's intellectuals.

Turkey’s universities are on the verge of complete collapse under the pressure of emergency decrees implemented following the failed coup that purged thousands of academics.

A total of 5,896 academics were dismissed from universities by decrees issued by the government during a two-year state of emergency after the 2016 coup attempt, leaving many stripped of their funding and unable to work in Turkey or travel abroad, their passports confiscated.

A financial crisis that hit the country in 2018, which saw the lira lose up to 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar has led to further loss of hope.

Turkey saw a 27.7 percent rise in emigration in 2018 compared to the previous year, with the total number leaving Turkey reaching 323,918 people, over 136,000 of who were Turkish citizens. The largest demographic group to leave the country are young and educated people. 

“Every step we take will strengthen our economic and technological independence. We will develop unique and innovative technologies and become a top player in the global competition. We have all the necessary infrastructure,” Varank said

Turkey will be a hub for top researchers from around the world, Varank added.

An open-source platform has been established as the country seeks cooperation on software development with technology firms, NGOs, and related institutions, Varank said.

The ministry announced last year a flagship academic funding programme aimed at revitalise academia and reverse the widely reported brain drain. The programme offering large incentives to draw researchers in the field of science and technology to Turkish universities, but has proven largely ineffective thus far.