Taking part in the meeting were Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, Deputy Prime Ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Yury Borisov, Tatyana Golikova, Alexander Novak, Alexei Overchuk, Marat Khusnullin and Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister – Chief of the Government Staff Dmitry Grigorenko, Deputy Prime Minister – Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov and Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov. Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Alexander Kozlov, Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, Minister of Healthcare Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, Governor of the Novosibirsk Region – Chairman of the State Council Commission on Science Andrei Travnikov, and Head of the Russian Popular Front Executive Committee Mikhail Kuznetsov were also invited to take part.
Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov delivered a report on the main issue – the development of new research laboratories.
A number of other current issues were discussed.
In particular, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova updated the meeting participants on the coronavirus disease situation. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and Head of the Russian Popular Front Executive Committee Mikhail Kuznetsov commented on this issue.
Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko talked about the results of implementing the programme for comprehensive development of rural areas in 2020–2021.
Minister of Education Sergei Kravtsov spoke about the construction and equipping of schools and kindergartens.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Alexander Kozlov reported on the construction of the new Vostok research station in Antarctica.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with Government members
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Mr Falkov will be our key speaker today. He will talk about the creation of 500 new research laboratories, which is a very important topic.
However, before we begin, I suggest that we discuss current matters. For starters, I would like to talk about regulating cryptocurrencies. This issue has been on everyone’s lips lately.
To keep it brief, I will say that I am aware of the ongoing debates on this matter. The Central Bank is working on this and is tasked with regulating this area. Far from seeking to stand in the way of technological progress, the Central Bank is taking the necessary steps to introduce the latest technology in this sphere.
As for cryptocurrency, the Central Bank has its own take on this matter. Its experts believe that as this sector expands it creates certain risks, primarily for our people, since high volatility is part of it, and there are other aspects involved too. Of course, we do have certain competitive advantages here, especially when it comes to mining. I am referring to surplus energy and the availability of skilled professionals.
I am asking the Government and the Central Bank to discuss this issue in the near future and to reach common ground so you can report on these efforts. This is the first item.
Second, the ongoing efforts to fight the coronavirus remain a hot topic. We need to keep a close eye on this, especially now.
I would like to ask Ms Golikova to start today’s meeting on this topic. Thank you.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova: Mr President, colleagues,
As of today, cases of the Omicron variant have been recorded in 72 regions of the country. Of the detected cases, the retreating Delta strain accounts for 47.9 percent, and Omicron and other non-dominant strains make up 52.1 percent.
The hospitalisation rate per 100,000 people was 39 last week, up by 9.3 percent compared to the second week of the year. During the same period, the rate of new detected cases – also per 100,000 people – amounted to 231 and increased by 102.4 percent. Thus, an average of 17 percent were hospitalised out of the total number of new cases detected.
(Then Ms Golikova spoke in detail about hospitalisations in the regions, including that of children, detection with increased testing, and the number of COVID beds.)
The mortality rate for the first 25 days of January is down 22 percent compared to the same period last year and also 22 percent less than during the first 25 days of December 2021.
The herd immunity today is 64.2 percent and, unfortunately, is decreasing in a number of regions. The main reason is the loss of immunity in people who were initially vaccinated or recovered six months ago.
In this regard, I want to emphasise once again that vaccination and revaccination continue to protect against severe illness. This is confirmed by all international studies.
(Among additional measures implemented by the Government together with the regions, the Deputy Prime Minister listed keeping the healthcare system in a high state of readiness, especially its primary care system; allocating five billion rubles to provide patients with free medicines at the outpatient stage, as well as 15 billion rubles for the centralised procurement of medicines by the Healthcare Ministry to provide inpatient care; the Government’s request to the regions to take restrictive measures to comply with the sanitary and epidemiological regime; and allocating another 7.3 billion rubles to the regions for additional financial support and the provision of assistance at the outpatient stage, including payment for medical workers to visit patients.)
To help primary healthcare workers, remote technologies will be used when a person with symptoms of the disease or a positive PCR test contacts a medical facility or a call centre. Also available will be remote prescription of medicines, their delivery to the patient and online filing for a sick leave certificate.
Also, university students after their third year, and medical college seniors are recruited to work in call centres to collect medical histories and then transfer patients, with about 600 million rubles allocated from the Reserve Fund through the end of January.
Almost 70,000 people and 18,500 volunteers from among the students and employees of educational and scientific organisations have been recruited to provide medical care.
To help improve the effectiveness of coronavirus prevention and diagnostics, we need to allocate adequate financial resources and adopt corresponding measures. This is why we built up the production of the test systems. We plan to allocate additional funding from the Reserve Fund for express test systems for January-June 2022. We will purchase 60 million express test systems and send them to the Russian regions.
In addition, we will increase the volume of COVID-19 pathogen sequencing to detect any further virus mutations in a timely manner.
Moreover, in order to slow the spread of the virus, the regions have been instructed to adopt remote work schedules at schools and workplaces as much as possible.
On January 21, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection sent all the regions recommendations on how to prevent the spread of the virus among those who receive social services at inpatient social service facilities. This work is underway.
In addition, the “We Are Together” movement is working with the public, including the delivery of food, medicines and other essential goods.
The Government monitors the situation with the coronavirus and these measures on a daily basis. To do this, the Prime Minister has given instructions to create a response working group, which I chair. This group includes representatives from the federal executive bodies involved in this work, as well as representatives of all 85 Russian regions.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Golikova, I see that some children’s medical institutions are, unfortunately, suspending their regular work. Still, everything possible must be done, especially for children, so that the planned assistance does not stop. We need to look into this like we did last year and the year before last, this so-called rerouting. We need to see how much we can do and provide the regions in need of this support with the necessary assistance.
Tatyana Golikova: Yes, Mr President, we have such efforts planned. We need to adopt a relevant Government resolution by the end of January. We do not plan to interrupt regular medical assistance entirely. In the most difficult cases, we plan to go to emergency status, but some categories of medical assistance will remain as they are, without shutting down.
Vladimir Putin: Ok then.
We created the COVID 122 hotline. Mr Chernyshenko is in charge.
Mr Chernyshenko, the floor is yours.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko: Mr President,
Back in November 2020, we created the 122 single federal hotline as per your instructions to resolve the problem that our citizens had trying to reach medical institutions via telephone. This enabled people across all regions to address their COVID-related needs: get medical advice, make an appointment or call in a doctor.
Since its launch, the 122 hotline has received more than 50 million calls. Exactly two weeks ago, you instructed us, the Government, to mobilise our resources, underlining we only had a couple of weeks to prepare for a new pandemic shock. In the past week alone, the number of calls surged several times, reaching 3.5 million at the national level.
After your words about mobilising our efforts, we subjected the entire hotline service to a stress test from both a technical perspective, and in terms of human resources. The Government Coordination Centre, together with the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and the Healthcare Ministry, receive and analyse feedback we get from all regions and directly from people, round-the-clock. We have been also proactively working with the Russian Popular Front, which shares its data with us on surveys and hotline responsiveness around the country.
(Dmitry Chernyshenko went on to talk about the challenges call centres have been facing in their work, and the way they are being addressed, in particular, operator training at call centres and their technical equipment.)
Mr President, in keeping with your instructions, we installed broadband internet in all medical institutions around the country, including rural paramedic centres. We fulfilled that task.
Moving on, together with the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, we believe that it would be expedient to equip all medical institutions around the country with modern digital telephony systems to transition from obsolete analogue solutions to digital ones. I am talking about IP telephony. By creating a single distributed cloud-based contact centre, we can bring together over a thousand platforms within a single architecture and process an almost limitless number of calls simultaneously. We do hope that the pandemic comes to an end, but we will still need this system once it is over.
We have the situation under control, keep in touch with the regions at all times, and assist them as needed. They understand what is being asked of them. It is our understanding that many regions have yet to hit their peak periods. So far, they have been coping with the workload. We are keeping a close eye on the ongoing developments and are hard at work.
Vladimir Putin: Let us now turn to Mr Kozlov for a progress report on the Vostok station.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Alexander Kozlov: Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, colleagues.
We are building a new wintering complex for the Vostok station in keeping with the decision you took, Mr President, at the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society in 2019. As we speak, out there in Antarctica a platform is being installed on 36 pillars for building a five-storey building that will accommodate our polar researchers.
Alexei Treshnikov, a prominent polar explorer and full member of the Academy of Sciences, opened the Vostok station back in 1957. This is the only Russian station on the continent, located 1,500 kilometres from the coast at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level. What makes this station unique is that it sits over Lake Vostok, a subglacial lake with an undisturbed ecosystem that can help us study the climate of the past. Our effort to collect water samples from a borehole reverberated across the scientific community in the previous decade. To carry on with our research, we needed a new wintering complex, designed to provide a safe and comfortable stay for people working in Antarctica.
The last time the station was upgraded was back in 1982. It has become obsolete since that time: most facilities are buried deep under snow. Even in the summer the temperature there is minus 30, while during the winter, or for 10 months every year, the temperature can drop as low as minus 80 degrees.
The new complex is designed to withstand extreme climate conditions. It is a modular structure where each block can work independently from others. These modules will host research laboratories with their equipment, medical quarters with the capability to perform major surgeries, as well as housing units and recreational areas. Separate modules will house the main and the backup power units. For the first time, the station will have a system for water treatment and mineralisation.
During the season, 35 people will be able to live and work there at the same time, including 20 researchers, with others helping them with maintenance.
The new station will be 140 metres long, 17 metres wide and almost 14 metres high, like a five-storey building should be.
I would like to stress that building a station in Antarctica is an extraordinary undertaking. We delivered all the materials and fuel by sea during autumn 2021. Two container ships, a tanker and an icebreaker brought 6,842 tonnes of cargo to Antarctica’s shores, along with 6,000 tonnes of diesel and 112 construction and assembly workers. It took the entire month of December to unload all this in Tala Bay, from where the cargo was taken inland using sledges and tow trucks for a distance of 1,460 kilometres. We have already carried out ten deliveries and are preparing the eleventh. We expect it to be carried out tonight, but it will depend on the weather, of course, because it is essential that people are safe along this challenging route.
I would now like to report briefly on the work we carried out this month. We reinforced the snow foundation on an area 200 metres long and 120 metres wide, installed 36 pillars there, each three metres high. This will ensure that the new station is not covered in snow. At the present stage, work is underway to install a platform on these pillars on which the modules will be mounted. There is a window of just two and a half months, from December to mid-February, for carrying out this work. For this reason, construction is expected to take three years. We intend to launch the wintering complex in 2025. <…>
Vostok also stands out from a geopolitical perspective. World-class research will be carried out at this station. We will explore the Earth’s climate and the gas composition of its atmosphere over the past 1.5 million years to obtain new data on the role greenhouse gases play in climate change.
Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov: Since 2018, the Ministry has been implementing a project on establishing new research laboratories for young scientists.
Mr President, the goal you set to ensure Russia’s presence among the world’s leading scientific and technological powers, defines the researcher’s place and role in the economy in a completely new way.
The countries that have been in the lead in scientific and technological development in the past few decades are steadily increasing the number of people employed in science. Importantly, this applies to both absolute figures and the number of researchers per 10,000 of the economically active population. This describes the changes in the economic system where new knowledge plays a key role.
At the same time, in the post-Soviet period Russia has experienced a decline in the number of researchers. This is one of the main challenges in ensuring Russia’s long-term presence among those that set the global technological agenda. Therefore, in recent time we have focused our consistent efforts on attracting young people to science.
Much has been achieved in the previous years. The share of people under 39 in R&D is steadily growing. In 2010, they amounted to 35.5 percent, whereas in 2020 their share went up to 44.3 percent. We record a growth every year.
It is important not only to introduce new people into well-established teams, but also to give them an opportunity to freely choose their field of research. The history of science, especially the glorious history of Soviet science, provides graphic evidence of this. It is no surprise that the appearance of new areas of research and the renewal of the scientific and, hence, technological agenda are linked with the new and young laboratory heads and new research teams.
Since the start of the national project, we have implemented this initiative in three stages. Each of them had its own focus but the basic requirements always remained unchanged.
First, the specialisation of laboratories always corresponds to the priorities of the Scientific and Technological Development Strategy of the Russian Federation. Young people are invited to work in them; every lab has at least 10 researchers, out of whom two thirds are under 39.
In 2018–2019, emphasis was laid on establishing laboratories in the leading academic institutes. As a result, 300 laboratories were set up with over 3,500 researchers. These laboratories were built in the same institutes that played an active role in the programme for updating equipment. So, on coming to one of these institutes, young researchers immediately received an opportunity to conduct research using cutting-edge equipment.
Mr President, I would like to focus on this. Of course, a considerable part of equipment we import is produced elsewhere. We see this as a systemic risk for advanced research and the effort to enhance Russia’s appeal as a sponsor of Big Science. For this reason we, jointly with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and our leading universities and research institutes, are discussing approaches to the solution of this problem on a systemic basis and drafting a relevant programme. We are planning to report to you separately shortly.
Speaking about the results of the work done at the first stage, I would like to mention the assessment you gave at the October 10, 2021, meeting dedicated to the federal scientific and technical agricultural development programme. Of the 300 laboratories, 100 have been established at agricultural institutes. In line with this initiative, we have managed to enlist over a thousand young scientists, who will engage in agricultural research.
In 2020, we chose a different focus, with new youth laboratories created at universities. Fifty-four universities established 80 new laboratories with the annual funding in the amount of 2.2 billion rubles.
In 2021, we shifted our focus and created another 120 youth laboratories. The annual funding volume approximated 1.8 billion rubles. This stage has focused on supporting the technological programmes of world-level scientific and educational centres. Pursuant to your instructions, Mr President, we have created 15 scientific and educational centres of this kind. The laboratories were being created with a view to promoting technological projects chosen by the regions, which guaranteed transformation of their regional economies. This is a point of fundamental importance. The regions have launched scientific research based on their practical value for themselves. They are also responsible for the implementation of these projects, while we, accordingly, are supporting them from the federal centre.
Apart from the change of focus in creating new laboratories, we, based on the record of the two previous stages, have adjusted and, I should say, somewhat toughened, in the positive sense, the requirements for the laboratories themselves. Specifically, they can be headed by someone not older than 35 years of age, who at the same time has international research experience.
It is true that our goal was to secure the return of talented Russian researchers from abroad. Incidentally, not only have our compatriots come back to Russia, but we also see the arrival of young scientists from India, China, Italy, Iran and other countries, who have become laboratory heads at different research and educational centres from the Urals and West Siberia to Southern Russia.
Last year, we started implementing a research programme of the national centre of mathematics and physics, which is being created in line with your instructions, Mr President. I am referring to the Greater Sarov project. The Sarov-based institutes have established six new youth laboratories that are pursuing fundamental research in areas essential for the development of Sarov technological potential.
Thus, 500 new youth research laboratories have been created to date in three stages: 344 at research organisations and 156 at Russian universities.
The funding for all these laboratories amounted to over 8 billion rubles in 2021, total funding exceeded 18 billion rubles, and 6,299 researchers, including 5,306 under age 39, have been attracted to science with the help of this instrument.
The first laboratories were established three years ago. This year, we plan to conduct a thorough analysis of the results they have achieved. An initial review of their performance has shown that the scientific effectiveness of these new laboratories is higher than average among the subdivisions of the organisations where they have been established in terms of funds attracted from businesses and special funds, like grants from the Russian Science Foundation, as well as by the number and quality of publications.
The professional community regards the experience of these new youth laboratories as very successful. It enjoys demand at academic institutes and universities as an instrument for soft rebooting of the scientific agenda and for ensuring the gradual succession of generations. The regional heads appreciate this experience as an opportunity to influence the scientific and technological agenda in their regions. Most importantly, this instrument has attracted young scientists, who can use it to implement their ambitious ideas, challenge established scientific theories and test their improbable theories.
Taken together, this is encouraging young people to take up a career in research, which is ultimately making our country a scientific and technological leader. We plan to create another 400 youth laboratories within the framework of this project by 2024, including 150 laboratories each in 2022 and 2023 and 100 laboratories in 2024.
Based on this experience, we believe that it will be expedient to continue this programme and to focus on the priorities you have outlined and about which you spoke in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly in 2021. I am referring to new energy uses, new pharmaceuticals and solutions to problems brought on by climate change.
This concludes my report. Thank you for the attention.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Falkov, thank you. I hope this work will continue.
It is very important to mention the role played by the regions, which joined this project at the very beginning in order to make use of its results for the development of their economies.
Mr Falkov, I would like to point out one thing. You mentioned publications. Of course, this is a very important way to evaluate scientific results, but we have talked about this many times and have listened to the opinions of the heads of academic institutes, who believe that it is an important but not the only criterion and method for assessing the quality of scientific projects. We have said this as well. Of course, we need to think about additional instruments for assessing this work.
Overall, it is progressing very well. I would like to thank everyone who is organising this work.
Colleagues, we are concluding this meeting. Do the meeting participants have additional information or any other comments, including anything outside the agenda? No?
In this case, thank you very much, and all the best.