Ever since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, Russian leaders have been vowing to transform their old-line, industrial society into a modern, knowledge-based economy driven by innovative science and technology. The current Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, has repeated that ambition frequently — not least as a way to overcome Russia’s dependence on oil and gas exports. Unfortunately, that transformation continues to be hobbled by outdated attitudes at the top of Russia’s academic hierarchy.
A small, but telling example came to light last month when the popular online newspaper gazeta.ru published an interview with Yuri Osipov (in Russian), president of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Pressed by the reporter about the very low citation rate for articles published in Russian-language science journals, Osipov dismissed the relevance of citation indices, questioned the need for Russian scientists to publish in foreign journals and said that any top-level specialist “will also study Russian and read papers in Russian”.
From anyone else, such a response might be dismissed as an off-hand comment, perhaps reflecting a bit of stung national pride. But Osipov is head of the largest and most powerful research organization in Russia, the employer of around 50,000 scientists in more than 400 research institutes, and the publisher of some 150 Russian-language research journals. What he says and thinks has a big effect on Russian science. Moreover, the undercurrent of scientific nationalism in his remarks is widely shared by other senior members of the academic establishment — many of whom are products of Soviet times, when Russian science was pretty much an all-Russian affair.
According to the US National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 report, even 20 years later there is a still steady decrease in the number of scientists in Russia.What is also eye-catching, number of domestic researchers draws level with Europe and the United States. Where as China continues to show very strong grow. China has approximately as many researchers as either the United States or the European Union (EU)!
According to the citation-analysis company Thomson Scientific, Russia is eighteenth among countries ranked by citations in the scientific literature over the past 10 years. That is a result not just of low overall funding but because management of basic science still stands on the concepts of a closed society, with a centralized administration inherited from the days of the Soviet Union. This leads to the absence of international peer review and to little motivation for scientists to produce international-level scientific results — they do not really need them to get funding from national sources. In addition, centralized funding of institutions, rather than of individual scientists, leads to resources being wasted.
Between 2004 and 2008, Thomson Reuters indexed 125,778 papers that listed at least one author address in Russia. Of those papers, the highest percentage appeared in journals categorized in the field of physics, followed by space science. As the right-hand column shows, the citations-per-paper (impact) average for physics papers from Russia during 2004-08 was 14% below the world impact figure for the field (3.57 citations per paper for Russia, versus a world figure of 4.16 cites).
Russian science is already lagging behind that of other nations. According to an analysis published in January by Thomson Reuters, Russia produced just 2.6% of the research papers published between 2004 and 2008 and indexed by the firm — fewer than China (8.4%) and India (2.9%) and only slightly more than the Netherlands (2.5%). Moreover, Russia’s publication output has remained almost flat since 1981, even as the output of nations such as India, Brazil and China was exploding. The situation is so bleak that in October last year, 185 Russian expatriate scientists signed an open letter to Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warning of an imminent collapse of Russian science unless something was done to improve the inadequate funding, strategic planning and teaching of science.
The Russian Academy of Sciences, founded in 1725, is the chief coordinating body for scientific research in Russia through its science councils and commissions. It has sections of physical, technical, and mathematical sciences; chemical, technological, and biological sciences, and earth sciences, and controls a network of nearly 300 research institutes. The Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, founded in 1929, has departments of plant breeding and genetics; arable farming and the use of agricultural chemicals; feed and fodder crops production; plant protection; livestock production; veterinary science; mechanization, electrification, and automation in farming; forestry; the economics and management of agricultural production; land reform and the organization of land use; land reclamation and water resources; and the storage and processing of agricultural products. It controls a network of nearly 100 research institutes. It supervises a number of research institutes, experimental and breeding stations, dendraria and arboreta. The Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, founded in 1944, has departments of preventive medicine, clinical medicine, and medical and biological sciences, and controls a network of nearly 100 research institutes.
The Russian Federation in 2002 had 3,415 scientists and engineers, and 579 technicians engaged in research and development (R and D) per million people. In the same period, R and D expenditures totaled $14,733.916 million, or 1.24% of GDP. Of that amount, the largest portion, 58.4%, came from government sources, while business accounted for 30.8%. Higher education, private nonprofit organizations and foreign sources accounted for 0.3%, 0.1% and 8%, respectively. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $2.897 billion, or 13% of the country's manufactured exports.
Russia has nearly 250 universities and institutes offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 1987-97, science and engineering students accounted for 50% of university enrollment.
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