May 26

Reproduced by Lecturer Site, and originally reported by Harald Zur Hausen, in Science, 25 May, pp. 978-979, [DOI:10.1126/science.336.6084.978], 2012.

The Greek Society and its institutions are going through very difficult times, emanating from several years of severe economic crisis. The gross national product of Greece decreased by almost 7% last year alone, and the unemployment rate exceeded 20%….

Meanwhile, fiscal cutbacks threaten the survival of Greece’s best centers of creative potential. A recent commentary in Physics Today (1) points out that funds are potentially available and can be used to remedy some of the above problems. Such funds, named structural funds, derive from “value-added” (sales) taxes throughout the European Union (EU) and are to be used to support the development of the poorer member-areas of the Union. Greece is entitled, annually, to a fraction of these European structural funds. For several years, Greece has used a sizable fraction of these funds to cover its research and technology budget. The disbursement of these funds requires actions from both sides, the EU and Greece. In the past 2 years, for various reasons, these actions did not come to fruition, resulting in the current crisis of Greek initiatives in education, research, and technology. This is halting the prospects of weathering the current crisis. Now is the time for European leaders to secure the survival and future development of Greece’s most competitive scientifi c and technological institutions by reinitiating these measures.

To succeed, the following items need to be implemented. (i) For short-term benefits, release a substantial part of the EU structural funds that are available to Greece, to be used by innovative Greek programs in science and technology. (ii) For long-term benefits, also use these funds to initiate a broad program promoting the close cooperation of major European research and technology centers with Greek clusters of excellence. (iii) Ensure the continued support of Greek participation in major European institutions, such as the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. (iv) Initiate a program to establish new joint EU-Greek institutions of excellence, focusing on scientific areas where Greece already has a strong presence in the European landscape and which could be crucial to Greece’s further technological development.

With these points in mind, 22 internationally renowned leaders in various fields of science and technology (2) have drafted and signed a petition addressed to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament; Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; and José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the EU Commission. The signatories of this petition sincerely hope that scientists and science policy leaders will take these issues seriously and will take whatever steps are in their power to address them. The petition follows: Greece is in the midst of a prolonged and deep economic recession that has already changed dramatically the lives of its citizens and threatens the very existence of its structures necessary for future recovery. To regain its forward momentum, keep alive its competitive institutions, and implement its huge reform agenda, Greece needs our help. We are confident that Greece, which has contributed enormously to European culture, can do what is called for to create a brighter future. To succeed in this difficult task, special emphasis should be given among other things to science and technology, areas in which Greece possesses particularly strong institutions and human potential. By utilizing existing structural funds, and by promoting close cooperation between major European science and technology centers and existing Greek clusters of excellence, Greece can be enabled to sustain its scientific structures, build up its own technological future, and secure a competitive economy in the long run.


Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany. E-mail: zurhausen@

References and Notes

1. T. Feder, “Science endures as conditions in Greece worsen,” Physics Today, April 2012, p. 24 (

2. The signatories of the “Support Greece” petition are Peter C. Agre, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2003; Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009; Günter Blobel, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1999; Edmond H. Fischer, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1992; Carol W. Greider, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009; Jules A. Hoffmann, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2011; H. Robert Horvitz, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2002; Sir Richard Timothy (Tim) Hunt, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001; Eric R. Kandel, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2000; Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel Prize in Physics 2001; Roger D. Kornberg, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2006; Yuan T. Lee, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1986; Robert, Lord May of Oxford, Royal Swedish Academy’s Crafoord Prize 1996; John C. Mather, Nobel Prize in Physics 2006; Prof. Iain Mattaj, Director General, European Molecular Biology Laboratory; Sir Paul M. Nurse, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001; Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009; Sir Richard J. Roberts, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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