President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear friends,
Today is the first time the President’s Prize for Young Scientists is being awarded. This prize was established by a decree I issued in July last year, and as was agreed at that time, the award ceremony has been timed to take place on Science Day, which we are celebrating for the tenth time today.
I want to say too that this award ceremony is taking place at the start of the Year of Youth, which we are holding this year in our country and in the Commonwealth of Independent States. I am genuinely pleased that our first laureates are young people whose achievements and discoveries have made a significant contribution to science in our country.
I offer my warmest congratulations to the laureates and to everyone present on this occasion, Russian Science Day. This date takes its source back in the time of Peter the Great, when the Academy of Sciences was founded. Yesterday, on February 8, the Academy celebrated its 285th anniversary.
Science is by its very nature always focused on creating new knowledge and making new discoveries. Today, there is great demand for this, and this has probably always been the case. Countries’ and economies’ ability to compete depend on their ability to stay at the cutting edge and create what is needed. This concerns not only production technology and culture, but new models, new standards of life if you will. This is an ability to foresee and create new sources of growth, things that are especially essential today when the world faces a global financial crisis.
I note too that science plays a part not only in technological progress but also in resolving the most complex tasks and processes that are shaping human civilization’s future development. This includes too the issues of values and morals that give intellectual and spiritual substance to people’s lives. Advanced countries seek to involve professionals of the highest level in this work.
Today’s laureates made their careers in the new Russia. Their achievements show that despite all the difficulties, science and quality education still enjoy great prestige in our country. This is also attested by the large number of competition submissions: more than 300 works were contending for the award. The members of the Council for Science, Technology and Education had the difficult task of selecting truly the most worthy and impressive candidates for the prize. The Council presented its recommendations to me, and seeing that the number of works selected was bigger than the number of prizes, they asked me to increase the number of awards to four, which I agreed to do, and I think this was the right decision.
All of our laureates have already made a name for themselves as scientists and are recognised specialists in their fields. They have already defended their doctoral theses.
Doctor of physics and mathematics Mikhail Revnivtsev is engaged in studying black holes and galaxy clusters. Specialists call this high energy astrophysics. One of his latest discoveries has helped to resolve an old scientific problem related to the study of our galaxy. I note too that he has won many competitions for carrying out serious experiments at international observatories.
Alexander Kuznetsov’s work is in the field of algebraic geometry. This is a modern field that also has applications in theoretical physics and in other areas of mathematics. His work has received important international recognition and has earned him a number of major international awards.
The main focus of Professor Sergei Krivovichev’s work is the study of minerals and non-organic compounds. He has already obtained dozens of new compounds and developed advanced technology for creating crystal materials and nano-materials, and the International Mineralogical Association has named a new mineral after him.
Yevgeny Achkasov’s scientific and clinical work is devoted to diagnosis and treatment of pancreas disorders. The methods he has developed and introduced in practice are cost-effective and make it possible for most patients to avoid serious complications. His methods have drastically cut the number of deaths and reduced patients’ rehabilitation time. There is no need to say just how important this is.
Our laureates really deserve our praise. Not only are they pursuing their scientific projects — in itself important for the country — but they are also making their contribution to demographic development. I looked at the information – six children, three children, two children – good on you!
Our surgeon, Yevgeny Achkasov, is also an outstanding sportsman, a former Moscow speed-skating champion. Our laureates are all-round outstanding people.
Dear friends, we have been working purposefully of late to put in place new incentives to boost the position of young people in education and science. The Education National Project, which began a while back, has made a contribution in this respect. Last year, we approved a new federal programme, Scientists and Science Teachers for Innovative Russia. This programme aims to replenish the human resources deficit that emerged in the 1990s and encourage young people into science.
I note that active work is underway now to set up public councils of young scientists and specialists. I hope that they will look for new talent in the regions and help in practical implementation of the ideas put forward. Everyone present today, all of the heads of the federal ministries and agencies must also help in this work.
We urgently need an effective system for making use of new ideas and developments, a system to commercialise them, because to be frank, this is an area in which we still have a great many problems. We have no shortage of brilliant ideas, but we have problems in making use of them. We need to put in place a modern and well-organised patent system with a solid legal base and modern set of rules for protecting intellectual property and copyright. This is extremely important for all of the young scientists whose research will serve the new Russia.
Now let’s begin the ceremony.
I would like to say a few more words in conclusion to this ceremony. All of our prize winners today, our young laureates, are undoubtedly correct in what they say about today’s situation and the problems that still remain to be settled.
We need to admit that possibilities for work were very scarce in the 1990s, and this explains the mass departure of young university graduates, the young people who had just defended their degrees, as our colleague just described. The situation is still far from perfect, but we do have the tools now for solving these problems.
I was a young academic myself once. Young scientists and academics never have an easy time. We should not idealise the situation; it is not easy here, and it is not easy abroad either. But we need to have tools that will give young scientists the most important things they need for normal work. What do they need? They need a roof over their heads and a wage high enough not to have to run around various commercial organisations and earn the extra money needed to feed their families.
These kinds of tools have been developed and these decisions taken. Our universities have everything necessary for this today. The order of priorities is another matter, however. Universities want to build new facilities and at the same time resolve old problems, but most important of all for them is to attract talented young people. I therefore call on all of the universities to give this issue their utmost attention. We realise that this work cannot proceed as it did during the Soviet years, when the authorities handed out apartments in decisions from above. This is not the solution today. But everyone needs to be involved in this work; the universities above all. The state authorities need to put in place proper conditions for this work to go ahead, allocate sufficient budget funding and take into account the wishes of the universities and individual teams.
Of course, we also need a system of incentives and prizes. We have just awarded these presidential prizes that come with a decent amount of prize money and have status that gives recognition to their recipients. But we need other incentive systems too. Today, I signed a decree increasing the Presidential Grants for young holders of PhD degrees. I hope that this will give an important boost to the level of research and focus it on practical results. The increase is several fold and will bring the grants for junior PhD degree holders up to 600,000 roubles [approximately $16,000], and for senior PhD degree holders up to one million roubles [approximately $28,000]. These are decent sums of money, especially given that we are going through not the easiest times at the moment and the financial situation is really not so simple right now.
I want to say too that today we have recognised the outstanding achievements of our young colleagues in the natural sciences. This is a wonderful thing, because our country has always been famed for these kinds of achievements. But this does not mean that those working in the humanities can relax. We will look for achievements in their fields too, achievements that this presidential prize will recognise. We will look next year and see what results.
I offer all of you my sincere congratulations, and I especially congratulate our young prize winners, of course. Let’s all congratulate them once more.