The agenda focused on the sector’s main tasks and prospects, as well as the key areas of international research and technical cooperation.
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Transcript of meeting of the Council for Science and Education
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
I would like to congratulate you, together with all Russian researchers, on Russian Science Day. I wish you success in your profession and all the best, including health and prosperity.
I propose that today we discuss further measures to strengthen Russia’s research potential. This issue is really of crucial, vital significance for the country’s future.
Dramatic technological change is underway in the world. In terms of scale, it is comparable to the periods of industrial revolutions and scientific discoveries that have changed people’s lives drastically.
It is clear that leadership will now go to those who have their own technology, knowledge and competencies. They are becoming the main development resource that is literally an earnest of national security.
We must achieve a breakthrough in science, as well as in all other areas. We must stop supporting, once and for all, ineffective, obsolete and outdated approaches to organising research. Of course, the country is also waiting for new scientific solutions that will change the quality of people’s lives and boost Russia’s development.
These goals have been outlined in the National Science and Technology Development Strategy. And it is these goals that must be in the focus of our research institutes, R&D organisations, ministries and agencies.
Assistance should be provided to the best researchers and research groups. At the same time, the key principle for providing state support should be practical results and the creation of internationally competitive products and breakthrough technologies.
Today our researchers help Russian companies to win the technological race, including in such areas as processing and transferring big data.
Cooperation of science and business should become the key condition for implementing the digital economy programme. Using cutting-edge solutions, we must organise the activities of public and social organisations as well as transport and city management at a new level and to take leading positions in developing and using artificial intelligence systems.
Russian scientists have made an enormous step forward in such relatively new cross-disciplinary areas as bioscience, combining the study of biology, chemistry, genetics, medicine, bioinformatics and physics.
New technology to diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases has emerged. We are meeting with significant success in regenerative medicine. I mean innovations, which allows us to save people whose skin was almost entirely damaged, or to help those who had a brain injury or a stroke to return to their normal lives, or to change heart valves with less risk.
I believe the intellectual and scientific potential we have makes it possible to organise large-scale genomic research in Russia. I ask you to develop a corresponding programme in the short term providing support mechanisms for strong research teams, establishing advanced infrastructure and training personnel. We have just discussed this with representatives of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in detail.
We should apply the convergent approach and nature-like technology wider in genetics as well as in other areas. Using this base, we will be able to create new medicines and methods to treat serious diseases as well as a new energy industry based on technology that treats resources as sparingly as possible. Of course, I would like to hear your suggestions.
Colleagues, Russian science has seen game-changing transformations in recent years, which did not come about all by themselves, but were a result of colossal efforts of the state and the academic community.
In real terms, science funding has increased by 3.7 times over the past 17 years. It grew much more in current prices; the financing of civil science has increased by 23.6 times.
Major investment went into developing higher educational institutions and research infrastructure. The share of equipment at most leading universities that is five years old or less amounts to 65–85 percent today. Of course, this is not enough. Today, I also discussed this with our colleagues. We agreed that we need to expand this base, including in the regions with well-developed research capabilities that have good prospects for their effective use.
Young researchers now have new horizons open to them. The issue is about their ability to fulfil their own long-term projects and work at world-class labs. They are led by researchers with experience of work at leading international research centres who set the international research agenda. There are many of our outstanding fellow citizens among them.
Importantly, if we want to be leaders and be able to improve the global competitiveness of Russian science, we definitely need to go further.
Here are the areas where I think we must focus our efforts and attention.
First, it is imperative to continue to expand the research infrastructure, as was just mentioned, including the megascience class facilities, which are already operating in Gatchina, Dubna, Troitsk, Nizhny Novgorod and at the Budker Institute here, in Novosibirsk.
Such infrastructure should form the basis for the implementation of major research programmes, and be the centre of scientific cooperation across Eurasia.
We will continue to work at major international projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the experimental thermonuclear reactor ITER in France, and the free-electron laser in Germany.
As you may recall, as a participant, Russia is entitled to the intellectual results obtained in such projects. We must think about ways to effectively use them for the benefit of our country, economy and the social sphere.
I would like to say a few words again about a recent meeting at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Everything I have mentioned above is very important. We certainly contributed a lot to the preparation of these projects, and we are now working at these facilities successfully. But we also need to create our own centres like this. Our colleagues have proposed establishing one of them in Novosibirsk, at the Academy’s Siberian Branch. I believe they are right. We will definitely analyse this possibility and implement this project.
Second, we should keep the focus on supporting and promoting talented young researchers. Everyone who has shown good results must have an opportunity to make a research career in Russia, implement large research projects and look beyond the horizon when planning their activities.
The main thing is to help gifted young people start their careers in science already at school. This is why we have decided to establish an international research and technology cluster at the Sirius Educational Centre. Major Russian companies are ready to take part in this project.
At the same time, we must never lose sight of what we have achieved. We must not neglect either the prominent centres that won their repute back during the Soviet period, or the new centres such as those that have been recently established in Moscow.
Third, we should continue to promote interaction with other countries and to enhance the transparency of our science. The mega-grant programme has turned out to be very effective. We must devise instruments that will not just encourage prominent researchers to head our laboratories, but will also help us create powerful teams of international researchers in Russia.
It should be said that the recipients of these mega-grants, the researchers who have come to Russia under these projects have proposed such solutions. They have made very good proposals, which will certainly get the necessary funding, and we only need to organise this work properly now.
I want to say that scientists of global repute and young researchers alike should see that working in Russia is interesting, that we formulate ambitious goals that meet today’s challenges, and that we create the necessary conditions for making a breakthrough in attaining the goals set to the country.
Mr Kovalchuk, please. The floor is yours.
Director of the National Research Centre Kurchatov Institute Mikhail Kovalchuk: Thank you very much.
Mr President, colleagues,
Today we are discussing ways to ensure independence and global competitiveness of Russia and the competitiveness of Russian science as an important factor in reaching these goals.
There are three elements determining the development level of science in the country: ideas, personnel and research infrastructure, which the President has just mentioned.
In today’s world, well-developed national infrastructure for research and innovation is a fundamental component providing an identity and sustainability to science. This component, in many senses, determines the development of the other components: ideas and personnel.
This infrastructure as it stands today was created as part of the atomic project. And, since the atomic project, the development of research infrastructure has had two specific traits: while emerging as purely scientific, it has become technological and transformed into an important technological tool of modern industry.
At the dawn of the atomic project, at first, there was work with isotopes of, let’s say, plutonium or other elements, it was already technology, and today it is an amazing thing: the synchrotron centre we have here in Novosibirsk and at the Kurchatov Institute is becoming the base for medicine production, for example. You need to know atomic structure to make medicine. Today, 100 percent of structures are deciphered through synchrotron radiation. Although about ten or fifteen years ago many people were sceptical about it, today it works like that. This means that the production of medicines is completely determined by the development level of synchrotron radiation and understanding of the atomic structure.
The second thing is nuclear medicine. Everyone is familiar with it. The base of nuclear medicine is accelerators and isotopes – everything this megascience is based upon.
What is most important? Initially, this structure was created for servicing – it was a complex piece of infrastructure, it took two thirds of the money, but it served 15 percent of the scientific community: nuclear physics, elementary particles and accelerators. Now there has been a conversion. Today these mega installations are needed for the entire scientific community. The President here has spoken about physicists, chemists, biologists and Earth scientists – everyone needs this equipment. Creating it will serve current needs in all of science.
I would like to point out that Russian and Soviet researchers have made an enormous contribution to expanding international science infrastructure. Suffice it to say that the major international project ITER, which you, Mr President, launched in 2006, having signed an agreement with French President Chirac in Paris, is based on Soviet physicists’ research ideas. The tokamak – a term coined in the Soviet times meaning a toroidal chamber with magnetic coils – is being built there.
Importantly, the world's first accelerator on colliding beams – the prototype of the hadron collider – was launched at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk 55 years ago today. All the world's colliders use this principle, which was implemented here by Budker 55 years ago. The ability to develop, create and use such installations has become one of the most important indicators of a country's scientific and technological development. Any state, embarking on the path of technological development, gets this installation in order to demonstrate that it can afford it. The countries that develop and create these devices form an elite club in which Russia has always taken a leading place.
However, human civilisation, having undoubtedly reached the highest level of development, paid a high resource price, primarily energy price, for it, in fact, bringing the world to the brink of a resource crisis.
The history of the development of science, above all physics, shows that the ultimate result of the study of the properties of matter was the discovery and use of ever more efficient forms of energy: thermodynamics, steam energy, the steam engine, electrodynamics, electric power, the electric generator, the electric engine, atomic physics, nuclear energy, thermonuclear energy, and so on.
Importantly, in the course of these processes, the efficiency of generation from coal to atom increased by over 3 million times. That is, from a kilogramme of uranium we extract 3 million times more energy than from a kilogramme of coal. Importantly, consumption grew faster than generation and, as a result, civilisation is still headed towards a resource crisis. This means that increasing the efficiency of generation is not enough: we need revolutionary changes in the technology of energy use and consumption.
I will use an example as evidence. A very simple thing. Everyone owns a smartphone. Processing and recognising one simple voice command on a personal smartphone consumes, on average, energy sufficient to boil one litre of water. We should remember this each time we press that button.
Here is my second point, very important. I will cite an example related to resolving the most important task which is creating a digital economy. Speaking of the digital economy as a major breakthrough (which is true), we should understand that, according to the International Energy Agency, in the coming years, the share of energy consumption of the info-communication network (just networks, without the end devices, such as user network equipment, communication, or Wi-Fi) and without the production of computing information infrastructure, will exceed a third of the world's electricity generation.
When we discuss digital economy, we need to understand that if we do not develop energy properly, we will not have a digital economy. In the short term, this creates major energy-resource constraints for creating a digital economy. Meanwhile, nature does not know resource crises or energy hunger. An explanation of this can be found in the extremely high energy efficiency of natural objects.
I will repeat an example which I have already cited many times. The human brain which, in fact, created a unique civilisation on Earth, consumes 30 watts, whereas a modern super computer uses dozens of megawatts. And the efficiency of all the computers in the world does not even approach the efficiency of the brain of an average person.
So, to resolve the issue of sustainable energy supply for humankind, what is needed is a transition to technologies based on the principles that nature runs on – nature-like technology. These technologies should form the foundation of a fundamentally new technological base for our country's economy.
Mr President, I would like to quote from your speech at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, when the Kyoto Protocol was discussed. You said that we support the Kyoto Protocol, but it is only a partial solution to the civilisational problem. The issue should be about introducing fundamentally new environmentally friendly technologies that do not damage the environment, but co-exist with it in harmony, and will allow us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere that humans upset. This is indeed a challenge of a planetary scale.
I would like to say that a number of technologically meaningful results have already been obtained, both in the sphere of energy generation and the sphere of its consumption. For example, technologies have been developed to generate electrical energy on the basis of metabolic processes of living organisms. These so-called biofuel cells can be used for powering biological microsensors and implantable medical devices.
And the second area is consumption technologies. Technologies of hardware – let me stress, hardware, not software – representation of artificial neuromorphic networks for computing devices which operate on the principles of the human brain and, as a result, consume considerably less energy, are actively developing. I should note that such research and design work in all these fields are being actively and comprehensively conducted in many countries.
I would like to say that today we are at the world level in studying living nature and creating nature-like technologies. And this, so to say, is indirectly shown by the explosive growth of papers published by Russian scientists, primarily in the field of live systems. This is really an objective indicator of development.
Now, to achieve a scientific and technological breakthrough and confirm our leading positions in the strategic perspective, we need to take a new step in the coming five to seven years in the study of natural processes, mainly in the vital processes of living nature. And to do that, a number of qualitatively new experimental facilities must be designed which would allow for direct study not only of the structure of living objects but also of the processes of their functioning.
I want to say a few words on an unrelated note. Think about all we have done already. We take an object, an existing material, regardless of whether it is a mineral or an object of living nature. Then we use synchrotron radiation, x-ray to see the diffraction picture, study the positioning of the atoms, and then, having the knowledge of the atomic structure and properties, we empirically select a technological process that will let us create this material with pre-set properties.
But imagine, all those atoms we currently observe in their final positions, came there a long time ago either due to the Big Bang or in the result of specific chemical reactions. And we could see in nature how these reactions proceed, how atoms move in the process, we could see in nature how it creates these material, which means we could shift our technological capabilities to a qualitatively new level. In general, moving is key to understanding functions. And these new research facilities, on the one hand, will let us see what is going on in living nature, and on the other hand, I would like to say, they are metrological facilities.
Just look, when we had macromechanics, we used to make mechanical parts: we would make a drawing, manufacture parts, then we could check if the part corresponds to the drawing by means of a drawing ruler, a micrometre, a beam compass. When we moved on to microelectronics, the drawing ruler no longer worked, but we could do the same optically. And today, when we create nanomaterials on the atomic level, we should control it as well. This could only be done by synchrotron radiation.
This is why these facilities are a way of securing technological independence. Because even if you buy a technology and do something, and then I change something in that technology without telling you, if you can’t see it you will be kicked off of the market. That is why even nations that aren’t wealthy such as, for instance, Spain, are building their national facilities.
When building such facilities, the results obtained by Russia as a key partner in large international projects should be fully utilised. First of all, this applies to XFEL – the x-ray free-electron laser in Germany which you, Mr President, spoke about, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, ITER and so on.
By participating in these projects (this has never been the case before) Russia has become a rightful co-owner of unique knowledge, the most advanced technologies, technical and design documentation. In fact, we have designed the world’s best facilities (XFEL, ESRF) together with a pool of top scientists of the world, and we are currently co-owners, participants in creating the best intellectual property in the world. And this can in fact make a contribution to establishing a new national research technology structure.
In the past years following major government decisions, work began on a number of international infrastructure projects in our country. You mentioned several centres. I would like to say that there are six such projects. Two projects – NIKA in Dubna and the PIK reactor in Gatchina – are in full swing. NIKA is approaching completion. And there are four more projects. One of them is IGNITOR, a new tokomak, a Russian-Italian project, an agreement which was signed during your visit to Italy, Mr President. It is moving at full speed. Now there is the fourth generation of synchrotron radiation source. And two projects. One of them is powerful lasers, the Panchenko Institute, this is one thing. And designing new accelerator facilities in Novosibirsk, which you have just mentioned.
I would like to speak about the importance of two facilities in ensuring that tasks are met. This is the International Centre of Neutron Research based on the PIK reactor, and a specialised fourth-generation radiation source – ISSI-4 in Protvino.
The first facility is in the completion stage. The PIK reactor characteristics exceed those of all functioning research reactors. ISSI-4 is the fourth-generation synchrotron, it is a fundamentally new research and technology tool. The building of this facility will proceed on the basis of broad international cooperation. On the one hand, it is our intellectual property, it belongs to us. And currently it is being adapted to our capabilities.
The second important thing. The Logunov Institute of High Energy Physics is located in Protvino. It also has the most powerful proton accelerator in Russia, which is also the third most powerful in the world, and our collider was built there. There is a 20-kilometre-long tunnel with power supply, a direct wire from the Smolensk Nuclear Power Plant. This means it has a unique infrastructure, where our CERN was being built, a project suspended in the 1990s. This is why we are now discussing how we can use this infrastructure, and, having documents from the XFEL and ESRF, we can build this unique installation – the best in the world – together with our colleagues in a short period of time, five to seven years.
Two days ago, we signed a document with the XFEL and ESRF management where we stated our common interest in creating such an installation and cooperating in this project.
The unique research infrastructure we are creating will become the centre for concentrating and increasing Russia’s intellectual potential. International research and education megaclusters can and must be established on the basis of this research and technological infrastructure. They could become centres that draw talented youth from Russia and other countries as well as Russian and foreign scientists and specialists. This would result in a growing number of foreign students and graduates studying in Russia. In fact, we would create conditions for knowledge and technology to flow in from the global market. Federal and national research universities, institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences and other scientific, research and industrial organisations must be widely involved in creating and using these complexes.
It would also be necessary to design a series of measures, which would solve these issues including, in particular, the establishment and development of the national system of interdisciplinary education you mentioned in the very beginning and strengthening the existing mechanisms of attracting foreign and Russian scientists and specialists. In this sense, the unique research and technological infrastructure we establish will give us a chance to see how and during which processes nature creates its materials and objects, and, in the end, this would allow us to take our technology to a different level and secure the country’s leading positions.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Mr Kovalchuk, you said that everyone has a smartphone, except me. You don’t have one either. See? But yes, everybody has one.
And about boiling water. If it is clean, boiling is not necessary.
Mr Sergeyev, please.
President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeyev: Mr President, colleagues, let me share some of my thoughts about increasing the global competitiveness of our science given the internationalisation of scientific research.
We understand that scientific research is becoming more international, and there are many reasons why this is so. Of course, there is a synergy of thought, when researchers from various countries work together. Sometimes it is necessary to involve the financial resources of other countries to build a machine that one country could not afford by itself.
Finally, there is the issue of global challenges, which can be addressed only by using global efforts. In this case, the consolidation of efforts is very important. Thus, it is true that science is becoming internationalised, and we must realise that while taking part in it, we should make sure that the overall brain flow moves in our direction. Unfortunately, the current situation is different, in my opinion. In general, if we speak about some consolidated intellect of the nation, we see that it is leaving the country. Therefore, we need working instruments to turn this flow back.
What kind of instruments could those be? Of course, we need to support the wonderful programme that was launched by Mr Fursenko at the time; I mean the programme to create new laboratories headed by leading scientists. It has worked perfectly so far and we need to expand it.
However, on the other hand, we cannot beat the US or China in terms of attracting scientists. They have more to offer, so this instrument is not enough.
The second important instrument is what Mr Kovalchuk told us about today: scientists are leaving the country not because they get better pay someplace else, but they are driven by interest. It is more interesting for them to work with one-of-a-kind equipment. Of course, they will go to work there. So the more such mega scientific equipment we create, the more human capital we will receive to be able to turn the flow, which is so far directed outwards.
Maybe it is not only about such super-equipment. I think that we could have done the same with our existing experimental equipment, which is also interesting and unique; we should develop this project so that foreign scientists could take part in it too.
I think we should adopt a law on the creation of international research organisations. Foreign countries are used to working this way. In case they want to contribute, they should know they would be able to take part in managing this project, have the right to form a programme and that their scientists will be able to work with this equipment.
At the moment, unfortunately, there is only one such organisation in the country: the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, which works as an international research organisation under Russian law. If we had the opportunity to establish such international research organisations under Russian law, I think we would attract interest, capital and scientists as well. I think this is important.
Of course, researchers are attracted not only by advanced equipment and a cutting-edge infrastructure. They want to take part in interesting new projects. And I believe that we should add an international status to some of our interesting projects as well.
We spoke a lot about Novosibirsk and our Siberian branch, so I would like to give some examples from other regions of the country. I think it would be interesting to make the Crimean archeological project international. Crimea is an archeological treasure, no less than Israel and Palestine. It is where roads and civilisations cross. We got a huge amount of artefacts during archeological excavations conducted as part of the construction of a road. Foreign researchers are very interested in them. It would be crucial for us because it is easy for researchers to overcome political barriers. In physics, there is this term, barrier tunneling. Researchers, if they are interested, will come, and we could gradually introduce the international system of division of research labour with the help of this project.
Another project could be developed in the Far East. Colleagues, we talk so much about the colonisation of the Moon, other planets, and so on. But as you know, we have a lot to research and explore here, on Earth; I am referring to the depths of the oceans. In terms of size, there is more life in the ocean than here on earth. Its biotope is approximately two orders of magnitude greater than the one on dry land. Deep-sea exploration is very complex and requires modern equipment. In this sense, the establishment of an international project on deep-sea research in our Far Eastern seas would be very interesting.
You see, this region is becoming the centre of geopolitical activity. We have a base there to do research, and we also have a research fleet. We have wonderful institutes that make deep-sea robots. In Vladivostok, we have an amazing oceanarium and a biobank. So, there is something to work with. I think it would be good to use some funds and make some organisational changes to make this project a centre of interest for many scientists. This, in turn, will help to turn the brain flow in our direction.
Another instrument is a new (both for us and for the country) form of cooperation: the so-called brainstorm consolidation of research groups. I think my colleagues know that leading experts are invited to various countries for three-four weeks and are provided with good working conditions. These leading international researchers establish working groups to discuss various matters, to analyse the results of recent experiments and to outline development prospects. Taking part in such a working group will guarantee that you will have a leading position in terms of the relevant subject, strategy planning as well as participation in various international committees.
You know, it would be good to build this research mobility directed towards us. It would not require too much money, but we need to finally develop a programme on this academic research mobility that ended here in 2013. The Academy of Sciences does not have such an expenditure item, and Federal Law No 253 and the main objectives of the Academy do not include international activity. We need to restore it, and we are ready to work on it.
I told Mr President some time ago about our intention to update the objectives of the Russian Academy of Sciences and to introduce amendments to Federal Law No 253. It is absolutely necessary to do so in the area of international scientific and technical cooperation.
I have two more short remarks. Of course, when we speak about these instruments and the principles of research diplomacy, the domestic ‘front’ is very important. But there are, of course, external ‘fronts’ as well, there are developed science-oriented countries, and there are the CIS and our neighbouring countries.
You know, we have an instrument that does not work at all. The Russian Academy of Sciences has some 500 foreign members – prominent scientists from major developed countries. They are fond of our country and our science, but it is vitally important for us to systematise cooperation with them. We must establish a network of the Academy’s representative offices in the leading countries. They will help us improve bilateral cooperation and we will have an entire contingent of leading, influential people in other countries who will promote scientific relations with Russia. I would like to ask the Foreign Ministry to support this idea.
And one last point. The neighbouring countries are an important area for our scientific diplomacy. Unfortunately, in the past few years we have lost our influence there. We need to review the situation and consider re-establishing our ties with them.
Here is an example. Our colleagues from Uzbekistan have shown an interest in cooperation over the past few years. I believe that we can significantly increase our influence there by boosting our joint work in research and education. Colleagues, as you may know, many people there have not yet forgotten the Russian language. We should invite researchers from Uzbekistan to take part in our postgraduate and doctorate programmes. We need to send our leading experts there to give lectures in Russian. You know, the Russian language is a powerful force, and it is crucial that it retains its influence in these republics.
Of course, it would also be good to launch some large joint international projects. Here is an example. As you may know, the construction of the Suffa radio telescope is almost finished. There are instructions from the two presidents that we finish the construction and set up a serious international project there. We must do this as soon as possible. Given all this, we will be able to retain our influence and will not lose these countries.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you, Mr Sergeyev.
Ms Dontsova, please.
Department Chair at Moscow State University Faculty of Chemistry Olga Dontsova: Thank you.
Mr President, colleagues,
I would like to thank the President for calling life sciences and genome research important.
I also would like to draw your attention to a breakthrough in technology that has appeared recently and that completely changes our view on what can be done with a genome. I am talking about the recently developed technology of genome editing.
This technology allows for changing the genome in a specific, desired place. This is a nature-like technology because it is based on the system used by bacteria to protect themselves from bacteriophages. Scientists have changed this system and made two molecules work in such a way that one molecule is the aimer and directs the system at one concrete place in the genome, while the second molecule serves as “molecular scissors” and cuts through the DNA leaving behind a rupture. This rupture will be repaired by the cell and during this process, there is a slight change in the genetic material. So, this is not an artificial system.
Ruptures can happen in cells spontaneously. In particular, when we go out and breathe in the smell of fresh asphalt, we inhale benzo pyrene, which modifies our DNA and ruptures it. When we are sunbathing, UV rays affect our DNA causing ruptures as well. Ruptures also occur during the normal operation of the DNA in our cells. These are very natural phenomena that occur in the DNA and are repaired in a natural way. So this is the genome editing technology, not the creation of transgenic organisms, when alien genes are introduced to the genome in a chaotic way and can change its entire functionality.
It is understandable, that if researchers get hold of such an instrument, it opens up amazing horizons both in fundamental science and in its application. One cannot imagine what can be achieved using this directed evolution in agriculture. Knowing a plant functioning mechanism, for instance, we can breed plants with desired properties: drought and cold resistant and containing or not containing the desired elements.
For instance, everyone likes potatoes, but they are high in starch. In Russia, especially in the cities, and around the world in general there is the growing problem of obesity and diabetes. With this technology, we can reduce or even eliminate starch in potatoes. And so on.
Speaking about livestock breeding, we can breed animals with more meat, more milk, more or less wool, we can breed a featherless chicken, you name it.
For instance, a big problem today is that many children are born with intolerance to cow’s milk. Using the genome editing technology, it is easy to breed a cow whose milk will be easily digested by such children.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of this technology for medicine as well, because many defects can be fixed. For example, there are many genetic disorders. Naturally, we cannot fix them in embryos. There is the Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which weakens muscles and shortens the life of the affected person. We can take this person’s cells and fix the specific genome in these cells, grow the desired cells and return them back to the affected person, who will receive healthy cells that will grow healthy muscles. There are many such genetic disorders; they are also called orphan genetic diseases. This discovery provides us with unique opportunities.
I can go on about such diseases, but I have to mention that this technology creates absolutely unique opportunities for scientific development. We all know about the genes in our bodies, but there are so many of them that we cannot know everything about them and how they interact with each other. We have not researched thousands of genes yet. The possibility to make targeted changes in a gene will help us understand the connection between various processes in our body and improve early diagnostics and the potential for treating such multifactorial diseases as multiple sclerosis, which is now considered incurable.
Or another example: nobody wants to grow old, but we do not understand what makes us grow old. So by studying these issues we will find answers to questions considered unsolvable at the moment. There is a huge upsurge of interest in this area in the world at the moment.
I must say that such research is conducted in Russia. Lomonosov Moscow State University is an example: its rector Viktor Sadovnichy supported the creation of a genome editing laboratory. As of now, the lab has bred 17 strains of mice with edited genomes and at the moment is studying them.
The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology has made a great contribution to genome editing research. It has been developing applications of this technology and also has been improving the technology itself. I must also mention the institutes of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, St Petersburg and here in Novosibirsk that use the technology at the cell level. The Kurchatov Institute is also worth mentioning. I am not sure if you know this, but they are creating unique software that will help point aimer molecules in the desired direction. The genome is big and we need a lot of accuracy to work with it. It is a huge matter at present.
I must also say that until recently, these studies were developed with the support of scientific foundations. But this is a global issue, for it is not only science, but also potential technology. It is understandable that it cannot be dealt with using the support of foundations and separate institutes alone. I think that Russia must not miss such breakthrough technology. In order to have leading positions in the world, I think, there must be a state programme of financing for this area. We need to train personnel, we need the possibility to bring back personnel from abroad, to create infrastructure, and not only by purchasing foreign equipment. Finally, we need to begin manufacturing our own equipment.
Another crucial matter that has already been mentioned by Mr Nikitin, who was awarded the Presidential Prize today, is the supply of chemical agents. Let me just give you one example to help explain why we are losing out to the competition in areas where we can compete. If I worked abroad, I would be able to get the chemical agent I needed the next day or it would take no more than two days. But in Russia I would have to wait for at least three months and pay one and a half to three times more for this chemical agent than if I were abroad. This really undermines experimental research and makes Russian research less attractive for young people or the international community, which is what we are discussing here today. I believe that this is something critical and a priority that must be dealt with at the government level.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: I think that you are right. There is demand for a programme of this kind. We will think about it together with you and come up with a proposal.
Olga Dontsova: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: I am not even talking about the related subjects, about the chemical agents and so forth, but overall we do need such a programme, of course.
Olga Dontsova: Mr President, but this matter concerning the chemical agents is very serious. This is what actually forces young people to work abroad instead of staying in Russia.
Vladimir Putin: I understand. We will try to resolve the issue with chemical agents as part of the programme. Would that suit you? We do need to think about a programme like this, I agree.
What matters is that instead of turning into rats, mice in this laboratory turn into cows that make the right kind of milk.
Olga Dontsova: Still, we need to begin with mice, and move on to cows later.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is true. And you do need the right chemical agents. I also agree. They must be provided on time. Thank you.
Mr Dynkin, you have the floor.
Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Secretary of the Global Issues and International Relations Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Dynkin: Thank you Mr President.
I would like to follow-up briefly on what Mr Sergeev said about the tunnel effect. I believe that researchers and people with a scientific outlook have an edge when it comes to resisting propaganda and ideologies. When diplomats and the military are no longer able to understand each other, I think that researcher-to-researcher dialogue remains the last channel in interstate relations.
In this case, I would like to add that Russian international relations experts take an active part in searching for a solution of the current crises, such as Syria, or Donbass, or the situation around the Korean Peninsula. I can tell you that famous expert in Orient studies Vitaly Naumkin, aide to Staffan de Mistura, has been living and working actively between Moscow, Damascus and Geneva for almost two years now.
I would like to say that holding large international conferences has become a new form of competition in our areas. China and India are becoming especially competitive now. We can see it while preparing the Primakov Readings International Forum. I can tell you today that, according to global rankings, the Primakov Readings have not only made it to the top 10, but hold the seventh position. The Asian Shangri La Dialogue international security conference held in Singapore and the Munich Security Conference hold the first position and we, the seventh. Not bad, I believe.
Of course, your attention and your participation in this conference played an important role. I would like to say that Chair of the Organisation Committee Yury Ushakov as well as Andrei Fursenko, who is also here today, and, of course, Sergei Lavrov help us a lot. I believe this is exactly the form we should support and develop.
I would like to add regarding global competitiveness that my institute, IMEMO [the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations] despite a lot of prejudice towards us, our projects and our publications, improved its position in the global ranking by three points and took 28th place. Let me add that IMEMO scientists also rose in this ranking.
If we speak about the things we need today to actively increase our competitiveness, some reserves either at the Russian Science Foundation or at the Russian Foundation for Basic Research to translate our works into English would increase our citation ratio and competitiveness.
Secondly, I believe (Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov is here today) that many countries have a scientific adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Maybe we should think about it and coordinate this work?
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Mr Sadovnichy, you have the floor.
Lomonosov Moscow State University Rector Viktor Sadovnichy: Thank you, Mr President.
You have noted the importance of training personnel as a way of taking care of the future. As President of the Russian Union of Rectors, I would like to discuss the university corporation and its contribution to international science and technology cooperation.
First of all, this is a venue for holding forums. Since 2000, we have held 50 forums. Dozens and even hundreds of rectors from around the world come to Russia or we visit them and study their national education systems and monitor developments at leading universities worldwide. In the past three years, since 2014, the forums have involved 2,000 rectors from foreign countries. Mr President, as head of state, you attended some of these signing ceremonies in Japan and China. These forums are a highly important aspect of cooperation in science and technology.
Mr President, we are leaving for Beirut, Lebanon, in several days. Once there, we will hold a forum involving Arab League rectors and Russian rectors. This trip will involve about 40 Russian rectors and 60 rectors from Arab countries. I will only list the countries whose representatives will attend this Arab League conference on February 18: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, Somalia, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, Palestine and others. Considering the fact that they have suggested organising this meeting, and that the rectors of all these leading universities from Arab countries are scientists and well-known people in their respective societies, I believe that this will become a major event and it will take place in just a few days from now. Ms Vasilyeva will attend this forum, and a school will be opened there.
I would like to note that communication at the level of rectors (in my opinion, such communication is very intensive) has drastically increased the number of foreign students in Russia. According to overall statistics, their influx has increased three-fold. Regarding Moscow State University, I can tell you that I once dreamed that foreigners would account for about ten percent of the total number of our university’s students. And now, foreign students account for 25 percent, with 9,500 foreign citizens studying at Moscow State University.
Is this important? This is certainly important because these future scientists will work on our joint projects and at our research facilities. Most importantly, these contacts make it possible to effectively monitor new developments in the education sector. If we do not lag behind others in the education sector, we will surge ahead in science.
There is another project I would like to mention. It is related to scientific and technical cooperation; we spoke about it today. I am talking about the countries of the former USSR, CIS and the neighbouring countries. At the request of the presidents of six of these countries, we have opened branches there. The presidents asked for it personally and then the relevant executive orders were released. At the moment, these branches have 3,000 students who will receive diplomas from Moscow State University. We consider this very important. Not much is being said about it, but these people are the future elite in these countries. They often come here, but even if they stay there to work, they have MSU diplomas and they were taught by our professors.
A recent decision was made to establish a branch in a Western country, in Slovenia. The Slovenian government had to consult with Brussels to arrange the opening of our branch. But it has opened and classes have been held there since September. This is another success of our international cooperation policy, I believe.
I spoke about the joint Chinese university, which is holding classes as well. And, most importantly, the Chinese side provides a lot of cutting-edge equipment to the joint university. This means that in this special zone in China they are expecting a breakthrough in scientific and technical development, considering the scientific potential of Moscow State University. But we are learning too. Our biologists, mathematicians and programmers work there with the new equipment. I consider it very advantageous as well.
There is another project implemented at your request and approval: the rankings. Mr President, the rankings had a certain purpose. The leading rankings that we are used to evaluated educational systems in accordance with their own views. In general, we did not totally agree that they were the absolute truth and we suggested a new ranking system, which considers a university as an educational centre but also a centre that is connected to society. It is the linchpin of society and sometimes the most important institution in the region. Overall, universities are the future of the country and the regions. They cannot be judged by the number of works published.
So we suggested a ranking system that has three criteria: science, education and universities and society. This decision sparked debate. Hundreds of foreign universities took part in this ranking. We have summarised the results and published it. There is some discussion about it. We showed that our education system is considered one of the best. Instead of one university at the top of all rankings, now there are 13 Russian universities at the top. It is okay that we are not the best, there are American universities, but we did not strive to achieve that. As a country, we ranked second. We showed that our education system is strong in general. We are working on another ranking and we will improve ourselves. This also has to do with our reputation.
Mr President, I will conclude by saying that university cooperation does not require big funds; this is work for the future. But it is crucially important, because experience shows that current students will in the future be the ones to determine relations between our countries and the development of science in our joint projects.
I considered this necessary to mention on behalf of the Rectors’ Union.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Mr Fortov, please.
Vladimir Fortov, Secretary of the Department of Energy, Mechanical Engineering, Engine Operation and Control, Russian Academy of Sciences: Thank you. I would like to briefly touch on several factors that may hinder our progress at the necessary pace in the direction you specified today. I also want to say that we will be competitive, dynamic as well as attractive to our colleagues when our work conditions here are attractive. This is obvious.
However, unfortunately, our science has been becoming more and more bureaucratic, especially recently. There is increasingly more paperwork, reports to write and other red tape, which stalls actual research rather than help it.
The Western practice is different. Here before me I have an A4 piece of paper. This is a form to nominate a colleague for the Nobel Prize. Every year it is sent to dozens of physicists. All you need to do to nominate a person for this prestigious award is to fill out half a page. You can even do it by hand. It took me 15 minutes. This information is sufficient to determine that the nominee has the necessary credentials.
There used to be a time in our country when bureaucracy and actual research were indeed completely separate. This is another half a page with Andrei Sakharov’s writing. This was his H-bomb development chart.
I would like to hand over these two pieces of paper to you, Mr President, so that you have an idea of how complicated our system is today. It is snail-paced and, certainly, non-competitive.
In addition to what we are discussing here, I suggest developing a radical system to eliminate red tape from science. Scientists must only be in charge of the decisions that actually help them and that will bring them to their goals. Everything else only pushes people away. This is my first point.
The second thing is this. Today there is plenty of expensive research equipment throughout the world. Some devices have been mentioned here today, while a big part has not even been mentioned. Mr Sergeyev knows them very well. For every piece of equipment – for example, a laser – there is a fundamental research programme that requires compulsory international participation. Every year a board selects a programme through a contest. Our scientists often win the opportunity to work at foreign research facilities from this board.
But what happens next is a nightmare. You have to pay for travel, hotels, transfer of the equipment. We conducted a very complex evaluation. I will not bother you with it right now. Let us take, for example, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California, where each experiment costs $2 billion to $3 billion. When you just press a button and shoot. You get to work it for free. But accommodation and everything else costs money.
Think about the cost of productive time on the NIF. You only have to pay 0.3 percent of the cost of this research device – or, to be precise, experiments on this device – to participate in the project. This is so inexpensive. And it up absolutely unique opportunities of access to a great variety of devices. Power generators, mathematical devices, supercomputers and so on.
I propose including these two issues in the programme that will be developed.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
Let us hear from someone else. Mr Plugatar, please.
Director of the Nikita Botanical Garden — National Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yury Plugatar: Mr President, colleagues,
In 2014, the return of Crimea brought back many academic institutions, some of which were founded in the Russian Empire to later play an important role in the USSR. They are already contributing to the development of Russian science.
There is one word to describe what is now happening at our institutes. It is a breakthrough, made possible by new laboratories and new complexes that we are opening or new equipment that we are purchasing thanks to assistance from the Russian Science Foundation, the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Our goal is to reach the highest global level.
The most important thing that we have achieved over this period is restoring and strengthening cooperation between our staff and researchers from other institutes and universities of Russia. This cooperation has resulted in departments of shared education and core facilities.
In this vein, the Artek camp, Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Nikita Botanical Garden have partnered up to set up a successful open-air study programme that helps kids acquire knowledge and take their first steps in science.
Sanctions imposed by a number of countries have failed to prevent Crimean research centres from making certain achievements internationally.
Our research teams have taken part in over 200 scientific conferences where they have each time given their place of origin as, for example, Yalta, Crimea, Russia. Conferences that have been organised in Crimea have been readily attended by our colleagues, heads of scientific communities and Nobel laureates from all over the world, including from the European Union. So the proud Russian flag above the vessel of Crimean science can be seen clearly both in the East and in the West.
As for new programmes, I would like to inform you that six institutes under the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations are currently developing a programme on global biodiversity with the support of Russian and foreign scientists. It is a programme aimed to form and study global genome mapping and the genome inventory of plants at the level of single cells.
This research will help us develop a periodic system of cell types whose forecasting abilities can be compared only to Mendeleev’s periodic table. It is a real breakthrough. If we promptly begin the programme, we can reach leading positions in the world.
Within this short period of time, research institutions in Crimea and Sevastopol have managed to integrate into Russian research activity and consolidated efforts to create three modern federal research centres. In this connection, additional support at the regional level would speed up the process.
Also, it is the federal research centres that, in our opinion, can not only solve fundamental scientific problems but also help in dealing with regional issues. We have developed our proposals regarding Crimea. Crimea is a land of opportunity. We see how amazingly well research is organised here in Novosibirsk with its university towns and scientific centres.
Crimea is a wonderful site for research: from the World Ocean to the farthest corners of outer space, from medicine (including spa medicine, especially for children) to agriculture. Therefore, in our opinion, Crimea must become a new site for the development of science in the Russian Federation.
In conclusion, I would like to use this opportunity to invite you, Mr President, to the Nikita Botanical Garden. It is a true gem of Russia and the oldest research institution in Crimea.
Thank you for your attention.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Mr Plugatar.
Of course, we will work on it both separately, and on a systemic level, and within the general development of Russian science and the Academy.
You have the floor.
Director of the Knorozov Mesoamerican Centre of the Russian State Humanitarian University Galina Yershova: Mr President, colleagues,
I would like to say a good word about the humanities. This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary since the young, newly born Soviet state adopted a number of projects or laws, as we would call them now, on preserving and developing science. In general, for some reason people do not like to talk about this. However, owing to the preservation of science and the implementation of completely incredible projects, Russia suddenly became an example in science and the entire world.
The promotion of the new values that were put forth by the socialist revolution was a very important factor that facilitated the development of these projects because humanitarian values allow us to feel our identity. No matter what mega projects we might implement, we mean nothing without our values. In reality, our values are what Russia embodies in the world.
Mr President (you probably do not remember), after 2007, after your visit to Guatemala, two permanently functioning centres were established – one in Guatemala and the other one in Mexico. Projects are being carried out at these university centres. This is the Knorozov school, a unique humanities school. These are also students. We are open to all research institutions and everyone can go there and work.
It transpired that these centres attract both our compatriots and foreign scientists who want to cooperate with us– something we did not expect. We launch projects for them but we do not ask them for anything. We offer our projects and they come to us.
I would like to conclude my remarks and to emphasise once again that we should not forget the humanities. If we drop the humanities component that gives birth to jewels later on, we will lose everything. Mega projects will not be for us anymore. This is all I wanted to say.
Vladimir Putin: What you said is very important. Thank you very much.
The floor is yours.
Alexandra Kalashnikova, Senior Researcher at the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Mr President, colleagues, I would like to say a few words about one aspect of infrastructure development.
At the beginning of our meeting, you listed the development of research infrastructure as a priority. The Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute, which I am honoured to work at, is currently implementing an interesting and, I think, important project, which is to create and equip a research centre that will carry out research and design work in areas like solar energy, including space-based, power electronics, energy storage and other areas that are critical for us now.
However, in the process of implementing this project to create the research centre and equip it, our institute ran into a problem which, I believe, could prove to be important, and the resolution of which may prove important for implementing other similar projects. The problem is that the project to create an R&D centre will take a lot of time, relatively. It was designed originally to be completed within five years with substantial funding from the budget. Unfortunately, funding was reduced on two occasions when the process was already underway, and reduced to the point where it is now impossible to tell when it will be completed.
This is why I would like to invite you and the council members to consider covering such infrastructure projects with insurance, so that they can have some protection against major cuts in budget financing. If an infrastructure project, which was originally planned to be completed within five years, is only being realised in 10 to 20 years, the original purpose is defeated.
Vladimir Putin: We operate on a common principle, which is that any old business must be finished before we start any new business. This looks somewhat more primitive when it comes to major construction projects or facilities. We tend to start something very important, not having finished what was considered important the night before. So, I agree with you, we just need to take a closer look. Mr Sergeyev is supportive. We will see.
Mr Oganov, you have the floor now.
Professor of Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology Artyom Oganov: Mr President, colleagues,
I would like to say a few words about overcoming the consequences of brain drain that resulted in heavy losses for our science. Now we are recovering fairly quickly. According to the information I have, in ten years the number of publications by Russian authors has increased by 40 percent. In the magazines of the first quartile this figure grew by 50 percent. However, in the average citation ratio, our articles are still behind British articles 2.2 times. They are quoted half as frequently as the American ones and 1.6 times less frequently than even Chinese articles. In the total publication index, we are 16th. Despite positive dynamics, we are not in the place we should be. Russia should not be 16th.
Often, the older scientists in our country teach young scientists irrelevant things, irrelevant tasks, and the potential of the youth is simply not realised. It is necessary to bring back, or to be more precise, create conditions for the return of our best scientists that left the country, and to turn Russia into a magnet not only for them but also for the best foreigners both from neighbouring states and those further away. Generally, they should be provided with competitive conditions comparable to those in which they lived in the West or elsewhere and to those that their Russian colleagues have, including social packages.
I would like to add a few simple specific ideas. First, mega grants have created hundreds of advanced laboratories in Russia. It is necessary to create a system for keeping the recipients in Russia permanently. The existing instruments do not always maintain the status of these labs. After three to five years, a lab can disappear and its leading scientist may leave. Such scientists should be offered an opportunity to move to Russia for good.
Secondly, it makes sense to think about attracting innovative engineers to Russia. It may be possible to provide them with mega grants.
Thirdly, we should think about intellectual property benefits to encourage émigré scientists to return. The system here and abroad is that a university pays for a scientist’s patent and owns it, while its initiator receives a certain share. It is possible to give a higher share in Russia to attract talented people.
Fourthly, to lower the barriers to the arrival of talent, they can be provided with long-term working visas, green cards or easy procedures for receiving Russian citizenship. Finally, we can use the successful experience amassed in different labs and departments of the leading Russian universities – Moscow State University, St Petersburg State University, the Higher School of Economics, and ITMO University. Our Skoltech and the Institute of Bio-Organic Chemistry have great experience. The Russian-speaking Diaspora has an enormous potential but it will be exhausted in 10 to 15 years for age reasons. So we do not have much time to encourage the return of these people.
I would like to remind my colleagues that Russia has a great record for attracting talent from the rest of the world. Russia has always been a magnet for talent. Let us recall that Landau returned to Russia after practical training in Europe for a year and a half, Mendeleyev came back after two years, Khariton after two years in England, Lomonosov after six years and Kapitsa after 13 years.
Foreigners have also done a great service to Russia. Let us recall the great Euler, Nicolaus and Daniel Bernoulli, Vitus Bering,Johann Gmelin and Peter Pallas, to name a few.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Your comments are very practical and interesting.
Mr Remorenko, you have the floor.
Rector of Moscow City Teacher Training University Igor Remorenko: Mr President, colleagues,
I also have a proposal regarding schoolchildren. I am currently working at the Teacher Training University. More than 30 years ago, I studied here, at the Novosibirsk University Physics and Math Department. Training in physics and mathematics was hard, and we went to the House of Scholars to meet with scientists who conducted international research. For example, I went to a class led by a professor who participated in international collaborative efforts to study the genesis of the origins of the music of Aboriginal people. It was fascinating. This was indeed an interdisciplinary effort that showed us that Russia could be a leader in such international, but on the face of it, not obvious, projects.
It is possible to involve international-level scientists in working with children, but infrequently, because this work is time-consuming, and scientists never seem to have enough time. Sirius and the Rosnano League of Schools have a pilot programme where school science problems are created on the basis of research projects. In other words, they can be transformed and methodically prepared to come up with new and advanced school manuals.
Maybe it makes sense to put together a library of global projects, such as ”Russia in global science?“ ”Russia in global science“ is about teaching aids replete with problems that represent intellectual challenges that schoolchildren can relate to, and solving these and working with them at school, we could very well support subject-specific classes, which are now gaining popularity (engineering, medical, and academic classes are now being created), and thus somehow get schoolchildren interested in major, serious science in the future.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Please, Mr Parmon.
Valentin Parmon: Mr President, I would like to return to the critical issue of infrastructure development. We are doing pretty well creating unparalleled research installations, including those of the megascience class, and centres for the shared use of research equipment. Nonetheless, technology is a mandatory part of implementing the full-cycle projects envisaged in the Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development.
Including shared use national research and technology centres in the official category would be the right thing to do. In particular, they could be used to resolve the issues that have been mentioned twice here, namely, the production of chemical agents for Russian researchers. There are problems that a representative of the Ioffe Institute mentioned, specifically the creation of special one-of-a-kind instruments and instrument-based elements. That is, the research and technology centres must be part of the activities of the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations or the Russian Science Foundation, or the Ministry of Science and Education. Unfortunately, they have largely fallen out from their custody.
Vladimir Putin: Once again, please clarify what the mission of these research and technology centres is?
Valentin Parmon: Let us assume that I am a chemist. In order for me to be able to scale my work beyond the test tube, I need a sizable amount of the necessary substance. Accomplishing this in one institute, or one laboratory, is an exercise in futility. There is, for example, the Volgograd branch of the Institute of Catalysis, which can cope with this task with its entire system of complex installations that make it possible to scale up a particular research result and produce, if needed, ultrapure reagents, but in small quantities. Meanwhile, this most valuable chemical-science facility operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences since the late 1980's is not supported by the budget at all.
Vladimir Putin: That is, it is in place, it is just a matter of funding it.
Valentin Parmon: Yes, they should at least get some support covering their utility bills and so on.
Vladimir Putin: I see. Now I need more information about what and where exactly support is needed.
Mr Kozlov, please, you have the floor.
Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Kozlov: Mr President, colleagues,
Let me also make a few points on scientific and technological cooperation with foreign countries.
What Mr Kovalchuk said in his report about the role of mega-projects is correct. They are like locomotives pulling trains of new scientific results and new technology behind them. What is particularly important is that all this can and must be developed in our country.
Colleagues, we must certainly keep this in mind as a very important task, yet we must not forget about simpler and, I would say, no less effective and traditional tools of scientific cooperation.
If you will allow me, I will cite an example that is closest to me, namely the mathematical sciences. Of course, math, theoretical mathematics, is not that expensive: roughly speaking, it costs almost nothing. It is very important to look for, cast out a net and look for and support talented youth. We have spoken about this today. True, applied mathematics is a more expensive endeavour: just think of the need for super-computations, supercomputers. This is, of course, essential, but not everything is going well here.
But I will talk about theoretical mathematics. International cooperation has many aspects. I would like to remind you, Mr President, of your instructions to improve mathematics education in our country. By the way, much has been done and much has been said about this (the Sirius centre and so on), but, unfortunately, not all ideas, very interesting ones, which were outlined in this resolution have been realised. I mean the idea to create four international math science and education centres: in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Novosibirsk.
Such centres have already been set up in Kazan and Novosibirsk at local universities and are already operating, as far as I know. As for Moscow and St. Petersburg, it was proposed to do all this based on our two outstanding institutes of mathematics: the Steklov Mathematical Institute in Moscow and its affiliate in St. Petersburg.
You see, it looks simple, and the Ministry of Education and Science and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations are both well aware of the matter, and it looks like some steps have been taken, but legal barriers stand in the way. Since our main task is scientific research, and these are science and education centres, with an education componenet, transferring funds poses quite a problem. Nevertheless, this is very important for us.
There is a very good base in St Petersburg. It is actually the Euler International Mathematical Institute, established exactly for these purposes. We have to revive it. And our Mathematical Institute, in fact, has everything to fully do so. All the more so that this issue is a serious priority since we have ventured to hold an international mathematical congress in our country, in St Petersburg, in 2022. Mr Dvorkovich heads our organising committee, and, knock on wood, everything seems to be all right for now.
An international mathematical congress will be held in Brazil this June, and the final decision will be taken there. Our standing is good. But in order to hold the congress, we must also hold so-called satellite conferences ahead of the congress and following it in our country, in St Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Novosibirsk and other cities, we must have adequate venues for that. We expect everything to be all right in this respect because we have the foundation.
Young scientists were awarded prizes today. It has been 10 years, and we have 30 winners over that period. Suffice it to say that one in 10 winners works at our Steklov Mathematical Institute. We have three such prizes. And this is crucial – so far not every institute can boast of at least one winner.
The second question is about how to keep our young people working in the country. Colleagues, where do we lose to the West in these matters? Sometimes, to be honest, in trifles. This post-doc idea, a temporary position to do research.
I can tell you that when we had institutes at the Academy of Sciences, we had a post-doc programme jointly with the Academy of Sciences Presidium. We involved up to 400 young people in the programme funded by the Academy of Sciences. What does 400 young people mean? It amounts to two small or medium-size institutes. Yet, you see, it was a competition, young scientists, by the way, participated in the selection of applicants, and the programme did work, and it worked efficiently.
I think if we do something like this in terms of creating jobs, even if temporary, for two to three years, following a contest for young scientists, using the capabilities of our foundations (they do a lot of useful things to support young scientists anyway, but I mean to say if we act on a more institutionalised level), I think this would be going in the right direction.
Vladimir Putin: On the whole, this is being revived. We already have such experience. However, this should undoubtedly be expanded. We have already spoken about graduate students who are not just moving on to the next educational stage but do real research, and this is also the absolutely right thing to do.
Concerning research and educational centres in Moscow and St Petersburg, we will definitely have it accomplished. I hope everything will be done to ensure the holding of the international event you mentioned.
Mr Nikitin, the floor is yours.
Winner of the Presidential Prize in Science and Innovation for Young Scientists: Mr President, thank you very much for the invitation. I would like to make a short remark and specify some points a bit.
Why is Russia good at hockey? Because we have rinks in every yard. Secondly, we have lots of snow and parents are not afraid to let their children play hockey. In this respect, I think a lot has been done; many facilities have been built; and science is being funded.
Nonetheless, some organisations in this country are still afraid to let intellectual property go. It is difficult for our young people to organise the business of their life, a startup company, because they will get a very small share of it.
I think Harvard gives 7 percent to innovators, whereas less popular German universities receive only royalties from sales. The entire share is given to the innovators, who feel this is their brainchild. The problem here is that it is unclear whether you will have this share or your employer will. I believe this is a very important variable for young people.
As for snow, we understand that it is bad to bury the country in snow. I often hear proposals to allow everyone to buy reagents wherever they want. I would say it is much more important to establish a mechanism, maybe a private one for the time being, that would allow scientists to buy reagents quickly.
We spoke today about grants from the Russian Science Foundation or the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. When a budget institution spends a grant from one of these foundations on buying a reagent directly from a foreign supplier, it should be freed from customs inspection and the process of delivery to a scientist should be accelerated. If this is done, we will have a limitless number of startups in the life sciences and we will leave WhatsApp behind in terms of capitalisation.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Our internet commerce operates with almost no limitations from customs… yes, yes, containers arrive, something is written on them, and they do not know how to check it. Nevertheless, this is a problem, and it must addressed. We have to look into it more closely because it is impossible to release it from customs control completely. We have to create instruments that will not hamper research activity, that is what I mean.
Regarding the percentage that Mr Oganov spoke about, in essence it is the same. And I completely agree with you on that. We have to follow the path where it becomes evident – there is nothing to take from a researcher if nothing has been created. If we take more, nothing will ever be made here, so this is correct. These are remains from the past, this socialised consciousness.
Mr Fortov gave an example of how easily we solved some things in major fields but we cannot bring the old system back because under the previous system, when Sakharov was writing this paper… What did it say first? “Top secret.”
And behind all that was the notorious ‘nuclear physicist’, the organiser of that work Lavrenty Beriya. Just try and not do it. This is why we cannot use the old methods here. As to the fact that these people write this way, just on one sheet of paper – yes, that is what they do, Mr Fursenko is right. However, when they need money, I assure you, I know that that amount of paperwork will not suffice, you see? Things are under strict control there too.
But I totally agree with all of you that the decision-making system should have less bureaucracy, it is obvious, this should be done in a modern way with the use of modern technology that ensures the interests of the state, that shelters people from something deceptive, from embezzlement or toxic or hazardous objects penetrating our market and our territory.
The agenda today is the Global Competitiveness of Russian Science. The point is not to win some medal. No. We just need to create conditions for the nation’s development, but there will not be any development of the nation without the development of science. Conditions have to be created. This is what we have been discussing today.
Thus, I am grateful to Mr Kovalchuk for saying that we have to work on infrastructure as an anchor for attracting the best talent. Mr Parmon also spoke about that, and our colleagues as we met in a narrow circle with members of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences. Mr Sergeyev has suggested an entire programme – both a specific regional programme and a system-wide proposal.
Regarding international cooperation, this is extremely important as it makes our science part of the global scientific process. But this, too, is not a goal in itself. In this area, the same as in others, we must not create conditions under which cooperation leads to a further exodus. On the contrary, this must be done in such a way as to make cooperation work like a pump pumping our way.
And here, what Mrs Yershova said about the humanitarian aspect is certainly important. Without this, no researcher, young or middle-aged, if there is no humanitarian groundwork, I will not talk about patriotism here, although it is never out of place, if there is none, other research will become scholastic and it is unclear what the results might be not only for our country, but for the entire international community, because, as you know, a scalpel can be a life-saving instrument, but it can also be a criminal tool. So, the humanitarian aspect cannot be ignored either. Without exaggeration, I consider this very important.
I will not repeat now what, for example, Mr Oganov said, as well as our youngest speaker, today's laureate. We need to draft a list of tools that will make work here, in our country, attractive for all: for those who are already working at international laboratories and those who are not yet planning to leave. We need not be too concerned about it. In fact, there is a movement of ideas, people and staff in world science, flowing from one place to another – working here, working there – like in the arts, nothing so frightening.
What is frightening is if we fail to create conditions that make it interesting for people to work in our country. Then nothing will ever flow our way. So the main thing that we all must do is create the right conditions. When I say 'we all,' I mean both the state and the scientific community.
I hope very much that President of the Academy of Sciences Mr Sergeyev will rely on his colleagues, on the Presidium, on all who have contributed a lot to the development of Russian science, as well as young, fresh scientists, who came here after working at international centres.
It is certainly necessary, and we are thinking it over and will do this, to create conditions for promoting, and not only for promoting these mega-projects, but also for expanding these opportunities.
I met with you, with your colleagues, and you came up with wonderful proposals… By the way, I was happy that people, who worked here, our compatriots, who returned and worked here within the framework of mega-grants – they started talking about how to make it interesting for young Russian researchers to work here. And again, there was a range of proposals. We will put all this into practice, we will try not to forget anything. Generally, separate branches are also extremely important.
First of all, let me thank you, I will certainly use this in my Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly], which is currently being prepared, and not for the mere sake of mentioning it, but to make your proposals a programme for our joint work.
Thank you very much.