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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Elections to the Russian Academy of Sciences: a difficult mission new President


The newly elected President of the Russian Academy of Sciences late in the first after his election the General meeting of the Academy, which he was to lead. Fifteen hundred members of the Academy of Sciences 50 minutes of sitting, waiting, looking at the empty stage. The fact that the elected President of the RAS were asked to arrive at the government to be presented to its members.


photo: Alex geldings

The audience was scheduled for 12 hours. Exactly the same time, it was still a week before the assigned final General meeting, and the officials could not know. The members of the Academy gathered at the appointed time. To protect their honor, ought to explain that the President is waiting for a respectable meeting, and ask to postpone the submission of the next government meeting. But this did not happen. Coincidentally or not, the Academy of Sciences in the person of its new President pointed out in her place.

Shown, to put it mildly, adelicate government officials to the status of the President of the Academy, unfortunately, indicative of the symptom of relations of power in academia, more revealing than the spoken words sometimes complementary.

There is no doubt that the country’s leadership understands the vital importance of science, especially today. It is not necessary to convince. The only question is whether it was willing to make a bet on the Academy of Sciences or seeking some other form. What we’ve seen so far points more to the second. Hence, FANO, research centers, the rate for universities, SKOLKOVO, etc.

You need to recognize that disbelief in the possibility of the Academy of Sciences is founded. Academy of Sciences has been very slow to respond to the obvious need for reform. It is not suggested that the leadership of the country science-based economic model in a time when the country needed her. The result of the radical economic restructuring that have experienced our country has gone the way of trial and error, brought along with the positive transformation of large economic and social costs. Another example close to me is the failure of fundamental space research. In this field the Academy has remained and organizational and even financial opportunities. But she missed them. Read my book “Designs and mistakes” this. We are sorely behind in the area where were the leaders to remain leaders. So the question of power can be understood.

But, on the other hand, for many years, the Academy of Sciences, devoid of support, kept the scientific productivity. Today it is higher than any of our other science-oriented agencies. But to reach the modern level, the financing of Russian fundamental science is to magnify. I already wrote about the fact that the budget of one Harvard University in the U.S. is $ 30 billion, and the budget of the Russian Academy of Sciences with all its institutions is just over $ 1 billion.

The authorities of the importance of science is always viewed through the prism of practical tasks and priorities. Applied science is controllable and predictable. Fundamental science has no priorities, needs management and abhors planning. Applied research is the scope of grants, funds, and budgetary funds with the involvement of business. If you make it so that science was important for business, and lay on his shoulders through tax and other instruments of financing applied science, then the most part of budgetary funds allocated to science, it is possible to direct on financing of fundamental science.

At the same time in fundamental science there is no functional connection between funding and outcome as in applied Sciences. The connection is only probabilistic. Simplistically speaking, a discovery that changes the world, occurs through investment in basic science, say, every 100 billion dollars. If invested 100 billion a year, there’s a chance every year to open such a level. If invested 1 billion a year, as, incidentally, in the case of the Academy of Sciences, the probability of a discovery is once in 100 years.

Fundamental science in addition to the specific discoveries creates a highly professional environment of scientific creativity. Successful applied science always contains the fundamental component. And if there is no base of fundamental science, then, ceteris paribus, the country is doomed to play second fiddle. A necessary condition for the development of fundamental science is the scientific environment in which you can invest. Despite the ability to create high-tech products, the lack of a traditional academic environment was an organic weakness of Japan, South Korea, until recently, China. In the Soviet Union the scientific environment was, and it was Academy of Sciences. During perestroika it is largely degraded. We now are lagging far behind. It is therefore necessary not only comparable, but a higher science content than in the U.S. and other countries. First of all, this modern means of scientific research: equipment, devices, materials, pilot production, engineering and technical support infrastructure. Then we can count not only on halting the diversion of talented people, but also on inflow to us.

The task of the elected President of the RAS is to argue over the power of the only and most important thesis is that the Academy of Sciences is the scientific environment in which to invest, what the Academy of Sciences could become the locomotive that will lead Russia to the path of technological progress. Another scholarly environment we have. Or, if you look for it in other forms, it will occur very soon.

Whether the President-elect to take the correct position to protect the interests of fundamental science? Another problem facing the President of the Academy, — to organize itself so that the Academy was receptive to the improve the content. So was the return. Might need creative solutions. The President-elect must be prepared to the hard interaction not only with power but also with colleagues. You need to be able to achieve goals in the absence of unity.

I want to wish the newly elected President of the Russian Academy of Sciences to be at the level of his difficult mission.

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