President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Yuri Sergeyevich, you have recently hosted a general assembly, a very meaningful event in the life of the Academy. I saw that many interesting issues were discussed there, including, of course, the future of Russian science. Both the way science is organised and its main directions for development. Could you perhaps tell us briefly about the relevant conclusions you arrived at.
The second point, which today is more relevant than ever, is linked to increasing the prestige of academic work, the wages of scientists, including young researchers, and resolving housing problems. We are not discussing this topic the first time. Incidentally, we also discussed it while working on the national project: there is a relevant point in the Housing programme about this, but it is unfortunately not enough because not all the housing problems of young academics can be resolved with the help of this programme.
Therefore, we need to think about what tools to support young academics could be used in this respect, what can be done by the Federal Government, what are the capacities of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and how we add the possibilities that exist in the region to this equation. Because my goodness, academic life does not only take place in Moscow but also in other major scientific centres throughout the country.
Let's talk about these issues. In addition, I would like to inform you that I have just signed a decree confirming you in your post as president of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
President of Russian Academy of Sciences Yury Osipov: Thank you very much for your confidence. I will try to justify it.
We have, indeed, held an unusual meeting in which we summed up six and a half years of work. And this was a special period for two reasons: on the one hand, it was precisely during this period that a very important decision to support research was taken by the state, from the foundations of Russian science through to the approval of the statute of the Academy of Sciences.
A second reason is that these six and a half years were difficult, but they were also the years of the modernisation of the Academy of Sciences. The state helped us a great deal. During those years we launched the so-called pilot project to improve the system for remunerating scientists. The fact that wages trebled since 2005 is absolutely fundamental, especially from the point of view of attracting young people to science.
The assembly summed up the results: as always the Russian Academy of Sciences has made very significant contributions to the development of international science. This applies to many areas of our research — physics, chemistry, life sciences and earth sciences. We have received two major international prizes in mathematics. And, what is very important, there have been great achievements for our social sciences and humanities. And if we look at those concerned with economics, they have established regional development programmes for the Far East, Siberia and the Republic of Sakha. This last major programme is called ‘Industrial Urals – Polar Urals’.
Dmitry Medvedev: The presidential representative there is working very vigorously. And this is probably good because it's an large-scale project, a major project – something that engenders certain difficulties as well, of course.
Yury Osipov: Dmitry Anatolevich, I think that it is very important that when discussing this project and developing it there was an active relationship between the government and scientists. They discussed a great deal, returned to certain issues many times, rejected certain things, but what is important is that the project moved forward.
Dmitry Medvedev: You are right. This is a good example of full cooperation between business, on the one hand, and modern science, including fundamental science, on the other. Because the project is very down-to-earth but requiring substantial research. If we managed the same results in other areas that would be a good thing.
Yury Osipov: Yes. It is simply aiming for concrete results, which makes sense to society and scholars. This is a good field for the activities of the Academy.
In addition, we drew up projections for socio-economic development. We gave forecasts concerning the country's technological development through to 2020 to the Ministry of Economic Development. But you now set a different task: to have a draft programme of scientific and technological development in Russia through to 2030. We are already working on this. We might be too optimistic. But this is good. We will discuss it.
And, of course, the humanities. Now they work in a different environment, different climate. I am referring to historians and philologists. They have produced a number of interesting books, interesting works. The Shvedov dictionary, the famous Russian language dictionary which provides the most up-to-date definitions of words, came out recently. This is unique.
Dmitry Medvedev: In our history there were major specialists who wrote on linguistics and other topics. So we have a long tradition in this regard. I think that it is better if scientists do this work rather than politicians. It is done more seriously that way.
But I cannot help but agree that today the humanities are experiencing an obvious renaissance. This is because the ideological framework that existed before today has essentially ceased to exist. And you can engage in research in various areas of humanities.
But on the other hand we must not forget about fundamental sciences, hard sciences and natural sciences. Because during the period we now refer to as the difficult period for Russian science (especially the 1990s), it was precisely the representatives of the hard sciences and the natural sciences that were in the most difficult position. And today you need to pay special attention to their development. You talked about various achievements: despite the lack of funding which occurred ten to fifteen years ago the Russian school of mathematics is still one of the best in the world, perhaps even the best.
Yury Osipov: It is undoubtedly one of the best schools in the world. Incidentally, the National Award for science has been awarded to Vladimir Arnold. He is among the greatest living mathematicians. This is mathematics at a very high level.
Physicists have done excellent work and created new devices that are absolutely world class.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is the pride of our science. As well as people like Arnold and other luminaries, but…. we still need to attract young people to this field. How should we do that?
Yury Osipov: Dmitry Anatolevich, this is now the major question for the Academy of Sciences. We rectified the situation with salaries, improved the supplies of scientific instruments and equipment. If we now make a decisive move to secure housing for young people, then that would be very good. Incidentally, I want to thank you once again for supporting our request and including the Academy of Sciences in the Housing national project. And we do get housing certificates though not as many as we would like. And 250 certificates have already been distributed to our scientists.
Dmitry Medvedev: How many certificates do you think you need? Have you estimated? How many young scientists are standing in queues today?
Yury Osipov: If, for example, over the next five years we gave approximately one thousand five hundred apartments to young scientists then in five years the situation would have qualitatively improved.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think it's absolutely feasible to prepare such a programme. The Academy of Sciences has certain capacities in this regard as does the state and business. We simply need to create an effective partnership between those three distinguished parties. One and a half thousand apartments is not a fantastic figure.
Yury Osipov: We currently accept about 800 young people a year into the various institutions of the Academy of Sciences. But it is important not only to accept them, it is also important to help them get established. It is important that people feel that they are being looked after by the authorities.
Dmitry Medvedev: We are paying attention, but we have paid attention before. Now there is a real possibility, a tool, to help young professionals and young scientists get an apartment. If someone starts to work at the Academy of Sciences then he must know that if not immediately then, say, three years later, he will get an apartment. This apartment can help solve his housing problems over, say, the next ten to fifteen years. This, of course, is a very effective incentive. And if we think about the development of major scientific centers, and we are obliged to think about this with you, we are now talking about the development of the Far East as new a scientific, educational and university centre, then of course we must think about and how to deal with housing issues for young scientists.
Perhaps we should go back to that project. You should work more with the government cabinet and then we will go back to that and perhaps to a model that could resolve this problem comprehensively.
Yury Osipov: Thank you very much. This is the main issue now. People have started to return to their former positions.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is a good sign.
Yury Osipov: The conditions are good.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is absolutely true. On the one hand they understand that it’s not always milk and honey over there, on the other, the conditions for scientific activities in Russia have become much better: salaries have increased though they are not as high as we would all like and there are opportunities to carry out experiments. But we must deal with this problem every day.