Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Our meeting coincides with celebrations of both the Day of Russian Science and the 280th anniversary of the Russian Academy of Sciences. We are gathered in one of the leading research centres in the country – the Institute of Bio-organic chemistry.
The team at this institute has achieved significant success in an entire range of areas – both scientific and commercial. This is in part thanks to the serious approach to providing for scientific personnel.
I should say that this problem – along with other problems in the development of science – is on the agenda for discussion today. I hope for active participation from everyone who has come to this meeting today.
People of science have always been treated with particular respect in our country. The prestige and authority of science – regardless of political eras – for the authorities, for society and for all the citizens of our country, are always undoubted. And Russia itself has been rich in talented people, in truly original thinkers. An example of this is the recent award of the Nobel Prize to leading Russian physicist Vitaly Ginzburg. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him once more on winning this prestigious award.
Perhaps it is thanks to the unique scientific personnel potential that we have been able to preserve a great deal even in the most difficult times. At least, our main scientific schools not only endured, but gained additional stimulus in market conditions.
It needs to be said quite openly, however, that these years were not without losses for science. Recently, relying on our growing economic capabilities, we have seriously increased state investment in scientific research and staff training. Of course, I understand that everyone gathered here knows what has been lost, and that this is not enough, but I should say that from 2000, federal budget spending on science grew more than 150%. Spending on education increased more than three-fold.
I repeat, perhaps in absolute figures this is still not enough, but this is what the state was realistically able to do and did, based on the capabilities of the budget.
It remains a fact that from 1990 to 2002, the total number of people involved in scientific research and developments decreased by more than half. And the main “personnel collapse” took place from 1990 to 1994.
Scientific personnel nevertheless proved in demand in the new state system and burgeoning Russian business. However, it was people whose talents were most clearly apparent in science who became politicians, officials and entrepreneurs. People who in other conditions would have continued to work in science.
There has been a real danger of losing the succession of generations in science. This is also one of the problems. The number of scientists and specialists of a young, promising age dropped particularly quickly. You know the problem of “ageing of science”. Presently, the average age of researchers in Russia is 49 years, candidates of science 53, and doctors of science 61 years.
At the same time, all sociological surveys show that there is no drop of young people’s interest in science in Russia. There is a growing competition for admittance to institutes, universities and post–graduate studies. It is clear that young people want to become scientists, but often cannot truly realize their dreams.
We have addressed this topic many times. We have been able to do certain things. However, the problem of young people in science and staff problems as a whole are so far, unfortunately, decided fragmentarily and unsystematically.
Still, scientific personnel are above all people, and as we well understand, everyone knows this and there is nothing new about it, people look for jobs that pay well and promise professional growth. And so the personnel problem cannot be solved separately from problems of Russian science as a whole, despite scientists’ well-known devotion to their work.
I would like to give this special attention.
Above all, we still do not have a modern, effective model of economy of science. There is uncertainty in the legal position of the Russian Academy of Sciences, scientific organisations and institutions. There are many legal question linked with intellectual property, and with applying the results of scientific research.
Manufacture and science still exist in different dimensions. They are becoming closer together to a certain extent, but nevertheless this problem remains. We take a very long time to draw the benefits from our own scientific ideas. The share of innovative Russian production on the international market is extremely low.
We will discuss these problems in detail at the next joint meeting of the Security Council and the presidium of the Russian State Council. So I would like some ideas to be voiced here today to help colleagues who deal with problems of organising science, including in the regions. I would gladly hear your suggestions to further pass them on to heads of regions.
However, I want to note the most important thing: we must rid ourselves of the dangerous illusion that science can exist on its own, separate from the economy, from appropriate legislation or only on budget money.
And it should become common practice for rewards to come not just for scientific titles, degrees and administrative status, but for the real contribution of the scientist to the research process. At the moment, scientific workers do not always see the direct link between the scientific results they achieve and material rewards or career growth. The issue of intellectual property must be clearly regulated.
Furthermore, it is too difficult for young specialists to gain independent scientific positions. A great deal depends here not on scientific results, but as I just said, on the place in the bureaucratic scientific hierarchy. I should say that this is an important topic for analysis and open discussion in the scientific community.
And finally, the country still lacks the necessary capabilities for domestic and international scientific mobility. At the same time, in the world today research networks of a new type have long been used to maintain scientific personnel potential – international and corporative scientific centres and cooperation between institutes.
We should of course also examine another problem that has been discussed in society for a long time, and many people are aware of it. I mean the so–called “brain drain.” I would note that the total amount of personnel losses to science seems to be rather low – only 2%. But usually these are people who are either highly qualified, or very promising young scientific workers.
We understand that international migration of scientific personnel is in principle a natural process. There is nothing unusual about it. And as I have already said publicly on several occasions, capital and intellectual resources are concentrated in the places where conditions are created for their best application. This is what we need to think about. I understand that perhaps not everything depends on those present here, but at least we should formulate – I am obliged to formulate, and I hope that I will do this with your help – conditions that are the best for scientific activity in Russia.
We understand that international migration of scientific personnel, as I have already said, is a natural process, but free intellectual exchange also leads to a fundamentally new level of research not just abroad, but also in Russia. It has also opened new international markets for Russia.
But we are obliged, above all, to insure that the knowledge, experience and scientific ties of Russian nationals continue to serve Russian science above all, and Russia as a whole. For this, at least, we need to turn international scientific cooperation into a two–way street. We know that some of our colleagues have returned, and many are considering it. We need to create, as I have already said, conditions for effective work here, in Russia. In the near future we need to create conditions for scientists who have left to return to work in Russia, and more actively develop ties with the Russian “scientific diaspora”.
At the same time, we also need to “import” promising scientific personnel. And here we have good examples. If conditions are created in America for European scientists to move there, then this problem also exists for Western Europe. For Russia there is a problem of scientists leaving for Europe and the US. If in Russia the living standard is currently much higher than in several CIS countries, let us think about this together with our colleagues, how we could make use of joint scientific potential, involve researchers from our former republics for effective joint work in Russian scientific centres. For joint work in the future – not just in Russia, but in the entire CIS area.
The next important topic is training of scientists. The key issue here is integration of science and education – integration through the development of such modern forms as scientific education and scientific study complexes. We also need a reliable and well-calculated forecast of future personnel needs in different sectors of science and production.
At the same time, the state should provide equal access to education. Citizens of Russia, regardless of their material situation or place of residence should have equal chances to study, to reveal and realize their abilities. A more effective system is also required to find gifted young people, to involve them in study and scientific work.
I know how the scientific community and the university community feel about the changes proposed by the Ministry of Education. I know there are many critical comments on this issue. I think that the truth is somewhere in the middle. So I hope that we will have positive joint and constructive work in this area, not just an argument about who is right and who is wrong. I hope there will be a search for joint solutions to allow people who live in remote areas and cannot even buy a ticket to reach the most important and prestigious scientific education centres in the country, to have exams and be admitted to study in these centres. And of course, we should create a system where teachers at the largest and most prestigious universities could select the most talented students.
Incidentally, Russian business is already prepared to establish stronger and longer–standing partner relations with science and education. Evidence of this – the formation of a fundamentally new phenomenon for Russia – is corporate science, various types of scholarships and grants for talented young scientists.
In conclusion I would like to stress: it is already evident that investment in science brings clear competitive benefits to the country. And so it is important to create legal and organisational conditions for investment in science which would promote this process.
This is an indispensable tool for the development of science as a whole, and for the development of the scientific personnel potential.