General Meeting of Russian Academy of Sciences
OREANDA-NEWS. May 22, 2012. Vladimir Putin took part in an annual meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which reviewed the Academy's achievements in 2011.
Mr Putin outlined his vision for the future development of Russian science in view of the challenges facing society and the state. The President also touched upon the issue of research funding, improving the Academy’s material and technical resources and the social standing of scientists.
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RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, Mr Osipov, colleagues and friends,
First of all, thank you very much for the invitation and the opportunity to speak. I have visited you on many occasions and we have always had very interesting, meaningful discussions. Mr Osipov [President of the Russian Academy of Sciences] and I meet on a regular basis; in fact, our last meeting was just a short time ago, when we discussed the Academy’s problems, other issues and global matters.
We all realise that the coming decades will be largely decisive for Russia and for many countries in the world – the world that is no longer on the verge of but which has entered an age of global turbulence. New geopolitical centres are being established, social and demographic trends are changing, technology and life itself are undergoing profound transformations. All these processes demand our close attention to be able to plan and adopt adequate steps and solutions.
In this regard, I would like to emphasise once again: we need to do serious intellectual work on development projects, the projects of the future. We need a system of long-term economic, scientific, technological and defence forecasting. We must also learn to sense and analyse the problems of modern Russian society.
The tremendous role of Russian science is obvious, especially the Academy of Sciences. I consider the creation of a solid foundation in the natural sciences, and humanities a mandatory, indispensable condition for Russia’s modernisation breakthrough and a key to ensuring Russia’s leading role in the world.
Over the years we have done a great deal together to make sure that such values and concepts as culture, quality education, creativity, science and research become priorities again both for the public and the state.
Yes, there are still many challenges in these areas. Problems persist but I am sure many of you here in this hall would agree with me that the so-called survival period for Russian science is generally behind us. Significant changes have taken place in the country and our resources have increased manifold. Therefore, today, we should talk not just about state support for science or even about paying back debts, but about a priority partnership between the state, academies of science and the entire scientific and educational community for advancing national development. This is one of our absolute priorities.
I want to remind you where we started: in 2002, federal expenditure on civilian science amounted to about 30 billion rubles, whereas last year it was 323 billion rubles, which is ten times higher and a huge growth even taking into account inflation.
Our objective is to raise the funding for research and development to 1.8% of GDP by 2015, including through attracting private investment. This is still less than in some leading countries (in the United States, for example, the figure is 2.5%). But that is our goal and we will work towards it gradually and systematically, making steps that are commensurate with our abilities. That is the direction in which we will progress.
We also intend to adopt a proactive approach to involving research organisations and universities in implementing the innovative development programmes of state-owned companies, where vast resources are concentrated, as well as the plans to modernise the military-industrial complex.
Many of you here know how some of the Academy’s research centres became established: it was done, in effect, in response to defence industry demands. I am not saying that we must go back to this system – in fact, it would be impossible as well as senseless – but we will use their resources to meet the challenges of improving the country’s defence, while developing science by setting specific orders for it.
The state defence order to 2020 amounts to 20 trillion rubles, with another three trillion reserved for the re-equipment of the industrial base. Direct funding for the Academy of Sciences has also increased 400% over the past decade, which made it possible to expand research programmes, attract young professionals and begin to address pressing social problems.
In 2002, we allocated 12.6 billion rubles for the Academy of Sciences, whereas in 2012 that figure is 64 billion. The average salary in the Academy of Sciences last year was 34,000 rubles. Of course, this is still too low and does not reflect the qualifications, responsibilities and professional standards of specialists engaged in the science today, but it is still higher than the average wage in the economy.
What did we have in the past? In 2002, the average wage in the economy was only 4,100 rubles, and at the Academy it was 4,300 – that was the entire salary. By 2018, the average salary of science professionals should be no less than twice the average for the economy in each specific region. That is our declared objective and we will work towards it.
In addition, we must strive to ensure that the income level of the leading scientists (not their salaries but their total income) is competitive at the global level and comparable with the terms offered at the best universities and research centres around the world.
I would like to separately focus on measures to address the housing problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ employees, especially young scientists. I can say that 6 billion rubles have been allocated to the Academy for this purpose in the period until 2015 under the Housing Development federal targeted programme.
These resources are not sufficient, so we intend to actively support a joint project of the RAS and the Federal Fund for Housing Development for the construction of housing for the Academy’s employees in areas under federal ownership. This alone will reduce the cost per square metre by at least 20%. I know that the Siberian Branch of RAS has already launched a pilot programme. As a result, about 400 families of young scientists will have their own housing.
In addition, we will promote the idea of housing co-operatives, including for young scientists, as well as special preferential mortgage programmes. The regions will also get involved, for example, by providing assistance in meeting the down payment requirements.
During our recent meeting with Mr Osipov, which I have already mentioned, we discussed upgrading the Academy’s facilities and the establishment of centres for collective use. This is not the first time the issue has been raised: it is a highly important matter, both in terms of scientific results, and for the professional and creative self-actualisation of experts and scientists here, in Russia. We agreed to revisit this topic in the near future and see what kind of support the budget can provide for these programmes.
At this point, I would like to address the principles of research funding and the organisation of research teams’ work. Naturally, we must use the best and most effective practices that have proven themselves to be successful.
I believe that an independent evaluation of the scientific organisations should become the standard in academic life. These approaches are already being implemented at the Academy. However, only 73 out of over 430 institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences have held evaluations to date. You must accelerate this process and discard anything that discredits the academic community and reduces its credibility. Moreover, we must be less tolerant of those who take advantage of science for their own benefit. I want to note the principled position of the RAS Commission for Combating Pseudoscience and Against Falsification of Scientific Research.
The Academy’s top priorities include strengthening the standards of scientific and professional ethics, raising public awareness about the real problems and achievements of Russian science and defending its international prestige.
As you know, we are currently preparing a unified long-term programme of fundamental research. It will be based on clear and understandable criteria and designed to integrate the work undertaken in the state academies of sciences, universities and state research centres. It will be focused on research that will allow Russia to reach the level of the most scientifically and technologically advanced countries.
Please note: this programme must not only be reviewed and approved by the Government; we must create a mechanism for its open, public audit – that is, those in charge of implementing the programme must make regular reports, and not only to the officials with regard to the money spent, but also to the academic community and the Russian people. At the same time, authoritative international experts should also be invited to take part in the review.
The unified integrated programme of fundamental research will allow for a more efficient use of public funds allocated for research and development, avoid duplication of research topics and remove institutional barriers and various inconsistencies. As a result, we will be able to form research teams consisting of scientists working in different fields, and we know today that the most interesting discoveries occur at the junction of research fields.
I think that the task of the state and the Russian Academy of Sciences is to aggressively seek breakthrough projects, promote healthy competition in the field of research, including by bringing in unconventional ideas generated by groups of young enthusiasts, the fastest growing sector of high-tech and innovative businesses.
Many famous scientists write to the Presidential Executive Office and the Government with proposals to strengthen the competitive basis in the allocation of funds for scientific activities, to use the mechanisms of competition more widely, primarily to fund promising research and development teams. I certainly agree with this approach. Competition is indeed the most efficient basis for the allocation of funds. However, this has certain limitations as stipulated in the Budget Code and various laws regulating the disbursement of budget funds. I ask the Education and Science Ministry (the new Minister), the Finance Ministry and other relevant agencies to formulate their proposals in cooperation with the Academy of Sciences, to review the existing legislation and remove all barriers to the introduction of modern approaches to the financing of scientific research.
For example, we have seen how well the grant system works. Therefore, we intend to increase substantially – I want to stress this, increase substantially –the resources allocated to public research funds for the support of promising research. For example, it is planned to allocate 25 billion rubles to the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Russian Humanities Foundation by 2018. These grants will be comparable to those issued to scientists by the leading funds and universities around the world.
Naturally, the selection of projects for grants must also be conducted as openly as possible. I will add that the selection process must follow equally stringent rules with the participation, like in the previous case, of leading scientists and your colleagues from abroad. The money received from the funds should be used to finance the most important research that has a direct impact on the development of fundamental science.
In addition, we will extend (at least until 2015) the programme for attracting the leading specialists to our universities, regardless of their citizenship or place of employment. Moreover, we extend this programme to academic institutions and government research centres. This will enable them to boost their human resource capacity and launch new research projects in priority areas.
I would like to note that this programme is already working effectively. I have visited some of these laboratories and seen your colleagues at work. I think it is important to emphasise that the main recipients of grants (about 70%) are Russian scientists, either working in this country or those who have accepted employment abroad but return and work here for at least three to six months of the year. Many of them have returned to Russia permanently and are passing on their knowledge to both students and universities. Very importantly, they are engaged in promoting their research results in the market, both in Russia and abroad. In fact, we have been pulling together our national intellectual potential, and we have been doing that in practice and not just in the form of appeals, restrictions or prohibitions but by providing economic stimuli.
We anticipate that by 2020 at least five Russian universities should join the top 100 list of the world’s leading universities. However, here too it is necessary to understand what leading universities are. All of these rankings are one thing and we need to have a clear understanding of what they mean, but I think that the professionals in this hall should have no trouble with rating a particular university in Russia. I am convinced that we can tackle this challenge only through very close cooperation of higher education and academic institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
We should make full use of the powerful teaching potential of Russian scientists to increase the number of basic departments, to develop a system of scientific and educational centres working in the Academy’s institutes. I ask you to pay particular attention to this trend as I believe it is of vital importance, especially since we already have successful experience of science and education partnership. I can cite such examples as Moscow State University, St Petersburg Academic University and Steklov Mathematical Institute. Incidentally, present here at this meeting today are team members of the St Petersburg State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, which won the 2012 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. So our victories are not limited to hockey but extend to such academic disciplines as well. I congratulate them on this achievement.
The brilliant success of our student team is a prime example of effective integration of science and education, quality training of creative and intelligent young people who will doubtlessly be in demand in all areas of life in our country such as Russian science, including fundamental.
Colleagues, in conclusion, I would like to thank all the Academy of Sciences staff for the tremendous contribution you make to Russia’s development, for continuing the historic traditions of honourable service to the Fatherland and its people, which was mentioned by Peter the Great when he established the Academy of Sciences.
Thank you very much for your attention.