Proposed amendments to the Law on Higher Education were discussed at the plenary session held on 12 June 2013. During discussion about these amendments, Ivane Kighuradze, member of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture, stated the following: “How was the previous government treating highly ranked scientists? A group of active observers at the Abastumani Observatory such as Kurtanidze, Nikolashvili and Sigua, who were involved in international projects and have high citation indexes, were cynically expelled from the University.”

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decided to check the accuracy of facts mentioned in the statement. Since 2007, the Evgeni Kharadze Abastumani Observatory has been integrated into Ilia State University. We contacted Maia Todua, Acting Director at the Observatory and interviewed her. According to her Ilia State University has learned that the budgetary allocations decreased for its higher education/research programme section in 2011. In order to reduce the costs the University was obliged to implement particular activities. Due to this fact, Ilia State University offered the employees of the Observatory to amend the terms and conditions of employment contract in terms of remuneration. Prior to this, the salary for researchers amounted to GEL 625. According to the updated contract, their salaries were cut in half and amounted to GEL 312,5. Only three researchers of the 25, namely Omar Kurtanidze, Marina Nikolashvili and Lorand Sigua did not sign the contract. Correspondingly, according to Paragraph 1 of Article 22 under the Georgian Law on Higher Education, Article 37, Part 1, Sub-paragraph D under the Code of Labor, and Paragraph 3 of Article 38, the employment contracts of these three scientists were terminated and accordingly, they had to leave their jobs. According to Maia Todua, nobody fired these scientists, they themselves did not sign the updated contracts and this was the only reason why they were dismissed from the Observatory.

The scientists considered that their dismissal was illegal and filed a complaint to the City Court against Ilia State University on 22 August 2011 with the demand to restore their jobs and compensation for missed work. After this the scientists filed a complaint to the Court of Appeals. The Court did not satisfy their demands.

We also checked the citation indexes of these scientists through the website sciecelib.ge. We were provided with the following information: Omar Kurtanidze’s, Marina Nikolashvili’s and Lorand Sigua’s citation indexes are 2,218, 1,951 and 630 respectively [Citation indexes are calculated through the google scholar program].

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wondered about the definition of the citation index. According to the explanations by the experts, the citation index reflects how many times the researcher’s work has been cited in other works and correspondingly represents the objective measure of popularity and influence of the scientific research.

Conclusion

Scientists at the Evgeni Kharadze Abastumani Observatory, namely Omar Kurtanidze, Marina Nikolashvili and Lorand Sigua were fired only after they refused to sign new contracts and this became a reason for their dismissal. They filed a complaint in courts with demand to restore their jobs, but their complaints were not satisfied. They were not expelled from the University. Their employment contracts were terminated according to Paragraph 1 of Article 22 under the Law on Higher Education, Article 37, Part 1, Sub-paragraph D under the Code of Labor, and Paragraph 3 of Article 38.

These scientists are involved in international projects and they indeed have high citation indexes.

Correspondingly, we rate Ivane Kighuradze’s statement: "Famous scientists; namely Kurtanidze, Nikolashvili and Sigua, were expelled from the University" as MOSTLY FALSE.

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