by Ovidiu Vaduvescu
A very sad and black page of history about the Romanian "professional" astronomy...
Summer 2009: I heard about some telescope projects
In the summer of 2009 I heard from Dr. Marian Suran, astronomer of my former and associated Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy (IAAR), about a daring project for the Romanian astronomy! It was about a new 1.3m telescope named TELEROM, possible to obtain via a Romanian application of IAAR for an European Union (EU) infrastructure funding for 1.5 million Euros. Such a telescope has been very much in need by the Romanian astronomers, because during the last 50 years the "largest" Romanian telescope has been a 50-cm located in Bucharest, obviously not used anymore nowadays due to light pollution. I was EXTREMELY happy then...
January 2010: The director of IAAR, Vasile Mioc, was very cold about this project
Despite this great EU funding chance, the director of the IAAR Vasile Mioc has received with much aphaty the project TELEROM. He either didn't want at all such a project (he is a theoretician, has only few years to pension, and he was affraid of the responsibilities) or he wanted to install the telescope only in the old IAAR observatory of Feleac, a very bad location due to cloudy weather, bad seeing and light pollution due to the neighborhood (only 5 km away) of the very large city of Cluj-Napoca and a new stadium to be built next to the observatory!
Four research associates sent and supported an Open Letter to the director
Given these, in January 2010 myself and three other IAAR associated colleagues from Diaspora recommended strongly to IAAR in an Open Letter to install the telescope in a decent site, either building a new observatory in Romania or better in an European or international existing observatory in Canary, Chile, etc. Later, IAAR won the 1.5 million Euro competition for TELEROM, so the Goverment finally recognized the importance of creating a proper infrastructure for the Romanian astronomer!
September 2010: The Diaspora Conference very much supporting TELEROM was entirely rejected by the director
In March 2010 I was invited by a high Romanian official (Prof. Dr. Adrian Curaj, presdident of ANCS) to participate to the Diaspora Conference, because the Government wants to bring Diaspora home, so I was happy again and I started to work on this. Our astronomy workshop brought together 50 participants to the Diaspora Conference organized and sponsored by the Romanian Government. Nevertheless, the director of IAAR completely disregarded this meeting and did not agree to host the 2-day conference which was hold in the Institute of Aviation, thanks to Romanian Space Agency. In its concluding documment, the Diaspora Astronomy workshop recommended the telescope TELEROM as the most important objective necessary to re-born the Romanian astronomy which has continuously declined during the last decades. Right during the conference, the director Vasile Mioc signed (lately) the last documents, and TELEROM project was fully accepted for funding by the National Authority for Science (ANCS) and Romanian Academy, so it started its 3-year period until "first light"...
March 2011: The German director of the TELEROM project resigned. The Group 68 was formed and a Letter of Complaint was sent to authorities
Mostly nothing happened after this, during six months after the start of the TELEROM contract. In March 2011 the German director of the TELEROM project (needed to be lead by a foreign specialist), Prof. Dr. Hanns Ruder resigned, due to his conflicts with the IAAR director regarding the proposad location and some medical reason. Seeing the project in danger to be closed unilaterally by the director Mioc, myself and a nucleus of 6 people started a list comprised of 68 astronomers, students, professors, public outreach people and amateurs from Romania and Diaspora, who signed a Letter of Complaint to be sent to higher authorities. The letter asked for the continuation of the project and the resignation of the director Mioc because of his lack of interest and defectuous continuous management of IAAR, and also for checking his "astronomical" budgetary revenues: 3000 Euro/month in 2010 (about 8 times higher than the average Romanian salary and twice the salary of the president of Romania)! In this sense, our "Group 68 for the TELEROM" was born, including people with names and affiliation who signed the letter of complaint and sent it to 10 head authorities, among which the Romanian Academy (manager of IAAR), ANCS (awarding the contract to IAAR), Ministy of Education, other two Ministries financing the project, an astronomer and member of the Parliament (Varujan Pambuccian), the Government and the Presidency.
June 2011: All that Vasile Mioc worried about was his director chair and not the telescope
Although TELEROM was very much in danger to die, in some sort of "dialog" with us, the director Vasile Mioc clearly showed that everything he carry about was his director chair and his real astronomic salary (3000E/month, twice of the president of Romania) and not the telescope! Here is an email received by three of us, the scientific director of the project Dr. Marian Suran, myself and Dr. Dana Casetti Dinescu (astronomer of our group from the Diaspora): Vasile Mioc 10 June 2011: "To the trio suran-vaduvescu-dinescu: This time your tentative to dismiss the director of IAAR did not succeed. But do not despair. Continue to try. Eventually some reclamation to the UN, NATO, NASA, White House, to the EU, Vatican". Instead, we decided to go the next step!
Three months following our Letter of Complaint, the authorities did almost nothing to save the project, so the 68 group sent a Press Communicate
Three months later, in the 9-th month of the project with no Euro awarded and spent yet for the much dreamed telescope, the authorities to whom we complained, specifically the Romanian Academy and the ANCS, plus the IAAR through its director Vasile Mioc continued to do very little to move forward the TELEROM project, although a Romanian astronomer from the Diaspora (Dr. Mirel Birlan from Paris, and a member of the nucleus of our 68 group) volunteered to lead the project forward, and IAAR accepted him, but only theoretically. Seeing no action from the authorities, our "Group 68 for the TELEROM" sent a Press Communicate complaining about the lack of advance and the real danger that TELEROM project will die. Our press communicate supported the first letter of complaint and have appeared in many sites, being also published in 5 articless in the central press ("Evenimentul Zilei", "Romania Libera" and "Jurnalul de Investigatii"), the subject being also aired in a TV local astronomy weekly show ("Noi si Cerul" of Columna TV from Targoviste).
July 2011: The TELEROM contract died, as we very much anticipated...
Only one month later, at the end of July 2011 in its 10th month of "life", the project TELEROM officially died, being resiliated unilaterally by the ANCS, due to 4 reasons criticising IAAR for many phase delays, lack of dialog, etc. Nevertheless, the financing law communicated initially by ANCS was apparently not clear for TELEROM and IAAR people who were very much surprised by some apparent change in the conditions of the contract with ANCS. Thus, the ANCS and the Romanian Academy could have their part of the blame, besides the major blame hold by the director of the IAAR, Vasile Mioc.
TELEROM followed ASTEROS in the loss of EU funding which Romania desperately needs
Actually, TELEROM was the second such project burried under the director Mioc, following the project ASTEROS which in 2008 asked for 15 million Euro EU for two telescopes (1m and 2.5m) but the director simply delayed to sign the documents until the deadline passed, so the project ASTEROS even failed to be accepted in the competition! TELEROM and ASTEROS are in fact the third lost chance during the last 40 years when a Romanian decent observatory failed to become reality, although funding was available! In the years 1970s and 1990s two similar projects for an astronomical observatory failed and Romania remained the last country after all its Eastern neighbours which have 1-2m telescopes in decent observatories! After 3 years from joining EU, Romania was questioned by the leaders of EU about its lowest funding absorption rate of only 3% EU funds accessed, and to "solve" this situation, the Government created a new Ministery to deal with these EU funding...
Here I post some important documents about TELEROM (our 68 Group), Diaspora Conference (my presentations), and my personal resignation as IAAR associated.
Former Romanian astronomer (1991-1997) and research associate of IAAR (2000-2011)
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