The meeting’s participants included the 2010 laureates of prizes for science and innovation, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yury Osipov, and Education Minister Andrei Fursenko.
The meeting took place at the Polytechnic Museum, where the First Russian National Science Festival began today. Dmitry Medvedev addressed brief welcoming remarks to the event’s participants.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends, I congratulate the laureates once again, and everyone here, on Russian Science Day. It is a pleasure to talk with you in an informal setting this time, not in the Kremlin, but at the Polytechnic Museum, which as we have seen, is about to be reborn. We all wish this work success, because this museum is a great support for everyone interested in science and technology. We need to ensure that it retains all of its former qualities, while at the same time moving forward and becoming a technologically advanced centre of interest to today’s youth.
The museum was founded in the nineteenth century, during what we could call the flowering of engineering advances and the natural sciences. These kinds of assessments are all relative, really, but it was indeed established at the initiative of the imperial society of amateur natural scientists under the patronage of Alexander II. Today, the first Russian National Science Festival is opening here, and as I understand it, it will run right through until October. I hope this will turn out to be an interesting and educational project that will be helpful for schoolchildren and everyone involved in science and its popularisation, including as far as the matters we already discussed today are concerned.
I remind you that in April 2010 I gave the instruction to develop a new concept for the museum. This concept has been approved now. I hope the work will go ahead in accordance with the schedule the director presented just before.
Now to the issues before us, namely, the question of attracting talented young people into science and innovation. In December 2009, we discussed this subject in depth with the heads of the Russian Academy of Sciences. I hope that we will come back to it during our discussions today. Here, I am addressing Mr Osipov [Yury Osipov, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences]. Why, because I think that our decisions must be implemented. As far as I know, there is progress, including on the biggest problems, and the biggest problems, even in science, are the issues of everyday life. We said that we must start by resolving young scientists’ housing problems. I took the Government to task over this later. I think that did have some effect, and it seems that some apartments are ready now. How many, Mr Osipov?
President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yury Osipov: We have received 150 apartments so far. This was done over January alone. Now it is still February, and the Government is holding constant meetings on the issue.
Dmitry Medvedev: So I don’t need to scold anyone anymore? I can take a softer line now?
Yury Osipov: Sometimes it can be useful to get a scolding from you, Mr President.
Dmitry Medvedev: Well, I will do so then, what choice do I have?
Yury Osipov: But things are moving now.
Dmitry Medvedev: It’s good that things are moving, because I remember the bored looks on the faces of some of my colleagues when this was all being discussed, and I had to really make use of my power then. Let’s keep up the pace then and get this work finished.
Yury Osipov: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Another matter is that the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Youth Commission made available an additional 1,000 salaried positions at the end of last year. I was briefed on this today by the minister. I think this is very good. We are talking about almost half of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ existing 400 research centres, am I right?
Yury Osipov: Yes, the money has been distributed, and we have kept 70 positions in reserve with the idea that particularly interesting people could emerge, while the rest have been distributed between the different institutes on a tender basis. It is interesting to note that there is competition for these positions, more than two institutes for each position. This is good to see. The money has now been distributed, and the institutes are now organising tenders to select the people to whom it will go to.
Thank you very much for this, Mr President.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good, so things are moving in this area too?
Yury Osipov: Yes, things are moving full steam ahead.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good, I remind you that the size of the presidential grants for young Ph.D. and D.Sc. holders was increased substantially and now comes to 600,000 rubles for Ph.D. degree holders, and 1 million rubles for D.Sc. degree holders.
Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko: For a year.
Dmitry Medvedev: For a year, of course.
But this is not all, of course, and we can keep discussing this. I think that the state authorities need to do more to put in place all of the best possible conditions. Of course, this will never be anything completely exceptional, but the authorities in the broad sense – the federal, regional, and even municipal authorities — do need to ensure the minimum essential conditions.
The global world and the world of science know no borders, and we understand this. We therefore invite not only our own scientists to take part in these projects, but foreigners too. I think this is the right approach, because this is what scientific competition is all about, all the more so as our scientists go abroad and also participate – on a competitive basis – in projects abroad. This is just the kind of full-blooded environment that will help us to resolve the more difficult tasks ahead.
We have young people here today, and I want them to take part too in discussing the various issues involved in developing science, and developing education in general in our country and improving the way science is managed. The Youth Coordination Council has already made a shortlist of projects competing for the presidential grants and prizes for young scientists. In the views of senior colleagues, these projects are of high quality, and we shall see what comes of them. It is important to develop the network of regional councils of young scientists and specialists that have been established now in 81 different regions, practically throughout the entire country.
I want you to tell me, of course, about how you see the future of Russian science, what, in your view, are our strong points and weak points. Of course, we all have a fair idea of where our weak points lie at the moment, and in which areas we need to give new impetus.
But in any case, I can say that the situation has started to change of late. It has not changed radically, but things are improving. This is true of education and of science too. As someone who worked for quite a long time in the university system, I will not hide that I am very pleased to see these changes, because everyone who remembers the 1990s, remembers that they were very difficult years and the mood was very pessimistic back then. It was difficult to be optimistic. But this is all changing now.
There are problems. I have been discussing these problems not just here, not just with our young people working in science, but abroad too, with people working there. The last time was in Silicon Valley. That was an interesting discussion. There are very successful people working there, some of them left quite a long time ago, and some only recently. Some of them see their future in America, and others do not. But the conversation was very illustrative.
We should probably look at some additional incentives too. I think these could include the introduction of presidential scholarships for young people, who show promise in terms of developing priority modernisation areas. We will discuss the size of these scholarships, but they should provide decent sums of money for the chosen young people.
So, if you have similar ideas, I am willing to support them, though within reasonable limits. Let’s discuss all of this now.
There is one other matter I wanted to raise now. It is not directly related to science, but it does concern a huge number of people around the country. Indeed, it concerns everyone here. Can you guess what it is? It is the rather specific matter of changeover from summer time to winter time.
In my 2009 Annual Presidential Address, I spoke about this. A number of serious and lengthy studies have been carried out. We are all used to putting the clocks forward or back each spring and autumn, and we are all used to moaning about it too, given that it genuinely does upset the natural biological rhythm, and everybody hates it, hates waking up too early and not knowing what to do with the extra hour. That’s not to mention the poor cows and other animals, who don’t know about such things as changing the clocks and don’t understand why no one comes to milk them at the right time.
I think that the need to adapt to the time change provokes stress and illness. Perhaps it would be a useful thing for us to do away with this changeover and just keep summer time throughout the country, which will mean more daylight overall. Based on these considerations, I have therefore decided to abolish the changeover to winter time starting this autumn, and will instruct the Government accordingly.
We will not change over to winter time, though we will have to go through one more unpleasant moment when we switch to summer time and lose an hour of sleep, but this will be the last time. It will give us a longer day too. I think this will be good for the country on the whole. Anyway, people have asked me to do this repeatedly.