Russia’s scientific potential may vanish by 2010

The situation involving Russian science does not allow much optimism. Russia is turning into a secondary country not only from a political and economic points of view but in the scientific sphere as well. To be honest, the misery of Russian scientists became known long ago. To overcome the crisis, several ways out are suggested that provide for more financing of the scientific sphere or radical structural reforms in scientific establishments. However, no considerable changes have been made.

Meanwhile, as the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reports, Russia may soon loose its scientific and technical potential for good. Almost 70% of Russian students who study abroad will not return to Russia, as forecasted by the Demography and Human Ecology Center at the National Economy Forecast Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The center held an investigation of the immigration potential and the “return home” potential among Russian students who study abroad.

On the eve of the March session of the RF Security Council dedicated to problems of the technical scientific complex of the country, trade unions chairman of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Sobolev sent a letter to deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council Vladislav Sherstyuk. He wrote, “There is every reason to state that personnel problems in the scientific sphere are to be immediately settled, otherwise all programs designed for technical, scientific, and innovation development of the country will fail. Indeed, there will be no sufficient staff to implement the programs. In case no anti-crisis measures are taken, Russia’s technical scientific complex will vanish as an important professional sphere by the year of 2010.”

The above-mentioned facts are no surprise at all. Where to and why should students studying abroad return? Nowadays, the wages of Russian scientists are very low. For example, a doctor of science, who is at the same time head of a department or scientific subdivision, author of numerous monographs and researches earns about 3,000 rubles per month (about $100). Personnel of lower ranks receive less. Scientists in some institutes get some additional payments and grants. However, the majority of scientists have to search for more work on the side or to leave the institutes altogether.

Do you think we can expect much from Russian science under such conditions? Is it possible for Russian scientists to perform super important tasks at a time when the industry is experiencing its hardest times? The answer is certainly no. Today, many institutes subsist on resources created during the Soviet era. Practically no young specialists go into to science, as contemporary Russian science has nothing at all to offer them in exchange for their work. As a result, average age of the Russian scientist today is about 50-55 and sometimes 60 years. In fact, young scientists prefer to work abroad for higher wages, if they have the choice. Indeed, if you have to constantly think about money to support your family, it will be impossible to perform scientific experiments successfully.

It is sad to admit that we have no reason to believe that the situation in Russia’s science will improve soon. The most talented scientists will still leave the country for work abroad. Some will certainly stay because of patriotic feelings, but, unfortunately, patriotism only is not enough for scientific research nowadays. As long as Russian authorities focus little attention on problems of the Russian technical scientific complex, we can not expect that technological lagging of the country will be overcome. Not only technical equipment but brain potential as well requires investment.

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

In the photo: Russia’s Academy of Sciences at Moscow’s Leninsky Prospect

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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