Impending financial difficulties in Greece threaten closure of the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME).   As part of current austerity measures, IGME is apparently on the list for immediate shutdown, as perhaps are other national laboratories.

For those who have worked in Greece, IGME is well known for its maps, laboratories, staff and scientists, and a willingness to provide permits for research.  Over the past 59 years, IGME geologists have mapped the complex terrain that is Greece – that work is invaluable if you’ve ever attempted to understand the wonderful complexity that the rocks and tectonics of this area present.  The organization has expanded into every aspect of the geosciences, has become a leader in publicizing natural hazards and their mitigation, is the national repository of earth science data for the region, in addition to being the protectorate of natural resources for the country.  IGME also provides permits to foreigners (especially non-EU scientists) for geological/geophysical research in Greece.  As a Greek colleague commented:  “One outcome is that the work of decent foreigners may be disturbed, because I do not want to think who will issue the work permits!”

In every respect it is the equivalent to any national survey organization such as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the British Survey.  Restructuring and downsizing seem a better solution than complete elimination.

It is unclear when this may occur.  One decision date seems to be 5 August of this year (according to  [in Greek], whereas other sources in the Greek bureaucracy claim there are no firm decisions for closures as yet… apparently meetings are ongoing and recommendations for closures will be made in September at the earliest.

While it is not for us to meddle in these internal politics, we must be concerned when such prominent and significant professional organizations are threatened with political actions that speak to expediency while ignoring excellence, and take such drastic measures to pacify political problems.  Closing such a national resource as IGME needs commentary from the international community – strong letters of support have come from a number of geological surveys in Europe.  To view these letters, and to provide your own, please go to the IGME website.

Floyd W. McCoy
Professor in Geology, Geophysics & Oceanography
University of Hawaii – Windward
Graduate Faculty, Geology & Geophysics
University of Hawaii – Manoa