Bulgaria weather forecasters dispute heads to court
The simmering conflict over the future of Bulgaria’s weather forecasting service appears to be far from over, with the country’s meteorology institute filing a court complaint to block the creation of a body by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) that could lay claim on some of the institute’s assets.
In a statement on its site, the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (NIMH) said that it filed an appeal in Sofia Administrative Court against the BAS decision last week to set up a new climate and atmospheric studies institute.
The decision by the BAS general assembly was “in drastic breach” of the academy’s rules on scientific bodies and was motivated solely by the desire to “appropriate assets provided by the Bulgarian state to the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology to carry out its duties,” the institute said.
NIMH, the state body that provides weather forecasts and detailed weather warnings, has long been at odds with BAS management over funding allocations, but the conflict erupted in the open this summer, when weather forecasters organised a protest in front of Parliament.
Meteorologists claimed that BAS internal funding guidelines prioritised research and publication, leaving the institute, which focuses mainly on the practical matter of weather forecasting, underfunded and its staff underpaid.
A deal was struck in September, under which the institute would become a government agency under the Education and Science Ministry, while NIMH employees that wanted to focus on research would remain part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
The separation was made official in a provision of the 2019 Budget Act, which transferred NIMH to the ministry, but the BAS leadership appeared to go back on the agreement last week, when it created the new climate studies institute.
At the same time, the BAS general assembly accused the Education Ministry of taking sides in the conflict, which led to “NIMH being separated from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences under pressure.” This decision was “wrong and will have a negative impact on the operative and scientific activity in the areas of meteorology and hydrology in Bulgaria,” the BAS general assembly statement said.
NIMH has long maintained that the BAS leadership was only interested in the institute’s properties, saying in October that some of its assets were held by the institute even before it became part of BAS in 1962 and all the assets were given to the institute to carry out its weather forecasting duties. None of the properties were ever transferred from the Academy and thus there was no reason that the Academy should retain any assets, the statement said.
In its latest statement, NIMH said that its deal with BAS did not include any commitments to transfer properties to new scientific bodies set up by the academy, only to their colleagues that wish to remain in the BAS, who would be “granted all the assets registered to them.”