Travel around Moscow with flashing lights, meeting with Putin and Medvedev, concrete plans for the conclusion of the Academy of Sciences of the impasse… On first impressions in his new position, the newly elected President of the RAS Alexander Sergeev spoke the curtain of the General Assembly of the Academy.
photo: Gennady Cherkasov
On meeting with Putin
“Mr President invited me yesterday to come for conversation, talked one on one. I told him: “Maybe it has something unusual is going to sound, but I have nothing today will ask. Academy of Sciences must first show that we started to act. Requests will of course be a lot, but now I’ll ask only approve me to post. Mr Putin took the document, put it on the table and said, “you are approved”. It was unexpected for me. Because it’s not just the presidential Decree, and a big vote of confidence, which appeared on the results of a democratic vote in the Russian Academy of Sciences. We discussed many issues, talked about science, about how to rebuild the Academy. I can say that the field that exists around the President, has a very Frank conversation. When touched on the issue of scientific creativity, I was convinced that our President understands the value of fundamental science”.
About fundamental science
“Scientists involved in fundamental science, have the right to a negative result. And these negative results sometimes turn into unexpected discoveries. Remember the phrase of Pushkin: “And experience — the son of errors difficult and the genius – paradoxes the friend”. What is it about? Yes, that at some point, don’t understand us suddenly become open. It is precisely the fundamental science. And no the customer is not aware of this risk and go for it. To support fundamental science can only state”.
“In my program says I am not a supporter of the elimination of FANO. I think we can constructively build their relationship, but in the context of adjusting the legal field. Namely, change the status of RAS, which is 253 FZ and the Charter of the Academy does not allow us to fully participate in the formation and implementation of state scientific and technical policy. It is necessary to combine science and scientific competence, an unfortunate result of reforms in 2013.”
The status of the RAS
“We all say that the status should be changed. It needs to be special, appropriate to the situation. A special Statute is SKOLKOVO, the Kurchatov Institute at Moscow state University. And I don’t think it deserves the Russian Academy of Sciences. I think that it should be called the “State Academy of Sciences”.We will need lawyers to work hard to change the status to fit into the existing legal framework. I think we should start with the changes to the 253-th Federal law, which should set out clearly all the powers and responsibilities of RAS. After that will be easier for us to communicate with FANO. The Federal Agency for scientific organisations also understand that to be responsible for a scientific result, scientists need, and under existing law, FANO bears this responsibility. After all, if the government gives money to the Executive authority, he then asks. < …> We would like to have the RAS had the opportunity, along with FANO to be a co-founder of the institutions. The Agency should be responsible for administrative and economic activity, Russian Academy of Sciences for scientific and organizational. Here it should be clearly defined. The thesis “scientific-institutional” and not “scientific and methodological” guidance is very important. Now we have the whole science has taken away the ministries, there are research coordination councils, as they are both managers of budgetary funds. As a result, the science and were in such a (dire) situation. I think President Putin understands it and worried about it. Confirms that his proposal to organize councils in each of the Grand challenges of science, then combine them in a General Council which will be headed by the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences”.
The financing of science
“After the May decrees of the President of doubling the average wage in the region for scientists has changed the situation in the country. I don’t see anything wrong if their execution will be shifted along the time axis to the right. All perfectly understand it. But there are more important point concerning the decree of the President about increase of the percentage of GDP invested in science. By 2015, it was supposed to be 1.77 per cent of GDP. We already 2017 year, and we are still at the level of 1.13% of GDP. Maybe by the end of the year something will grow… I’m going to discuss and convince everyone of the need to enhance percent of GDP. Very important the position of the President, who believes that the RAS should play a much bigger role gives the Academy trust, and have confidence that it is definitely on our side.”
To levy a “tax on knowledge” with commodity companies
“One of the main problems of the crisis of science is that we lack the tools to do science at a high level. In recent decades, regular means to update the material-technical base of our science was not. It is this base, became, to put it mildly, quite archaic. Meanwhile, in the modern world science very clear trend that the possession of a unique instrument is the key to success and global leadership. If there is a tool with which you can detect and measure something that will not be able to detect and measure others, you are the king of science! You have a factory new fundamental knowledge! And the problem is not only archaic material base, and that we should be able to make the instruments themselves. No money for that, answer us. And I think that is the biggest problem of fundamental science. To solve it, you need a Foundation of instrumentalization. Not on the salary we ask for money, we are ready to work, we have teams, head light, but no funds for production. The program of support of national research universities has shown that when a certain political decision in the country are. My colleagues did an assessment, how much would we need to update the tool base, and get some crazy money — about 10 billion rubles a year. It would be possible to ask for money from the state, because oil prices are high, GDP is rising But politically more important if the Fund instrumentalization of fundamental science would form a large state-owned corporations and resource companies. Their income and wealth are now formed on the works of Russian scientists of the Soviet period. So it would be fair to give them now a part of their income to scientists and could continue to be in demand by the economy.
And yet, in the country we love and are proud of our sport. Large funds go to him, we rejoice in the victories of our heroes and not belittle their merits. But the country can wrestle not only in sports but also in scientific achievements. If basic science, spent as much as comes to sports, I think that the situation would change radically”.
On raising the prestige of science
“Our country is now very low prestige of scientific worker. If not for this prestige, the young people in science will not go. And parents who are “bad advise” will not be their children to focus on it. Plan to ask Mr Putin to take this our problem. After raising the prestige of a scientist is a matter of state. His position, the word would be very important, because the whole country looks at it. I can’t call myself a fully-Soviet mentality, but I came out of there. In the USSR the government is very actively engaged in maintaining the prestige of scientists and the movies were filmed, and books matching published. Now rose another generation that feels itself perfectly in other systems of reference — we measure ourselves by the one-dimensional scale, forgetting that the definition of success, their position is a multidimensional concept. The principle of “as little as possible to invest and how much to money” came to us from the market economy. Let’s apply it to our science, and we get complete nonsense. Because in order to become a scientist, you need long and hard to learn. But why do that if you can reach the desired social status faster and with less investment? In General, here we are without the state, nothing will change”.
On entry to the authorities
“Today I just entered their number. A conversation with Dmitry Medvedev was shorter than Vladimir Vladimirovich. We managed to speak with him before the Cabinet meeting, after which he was invited to join it. After the General meeting, where I waited for my colleagues, had to come with flashing lights, the tube was at the 3rd ring road… For me, the trips with flashing lights, of course, not very familiar, but, you know,that in Moscow without them is hard to do. Maybe further scientific and technical development will enable us in future to use the third dimension to move around more freely and usefully, then the problem will be solved.”
About young people in science
“There is a dangerous age in the life of a young scientist, when he goes from under the wing of the supervisor. He defended his thesis and now he should be able to make a living. But now we have very few permanent positions that support young people who proved willing and able to work in science. These guys say: “Look, I’m here fighting for grants, went to Germany and fight for grants — what’s the difference?” Successful young professionals have traveled around the world, understand there is a funding tool, I saw that it has an interest and start to compare the pros and cons. One of our drawbacks is the lack of (not counting the unit) large scientific projects in the country in which it would be interesting to take part young.