President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good morning again, dear colleagues!
It’s a good idea to meet to discuss such an issue, not in the corridors of power, but rather in an educational institution. All the more so because there is just a little over a month left before the new school year begins. Both students, teachers and professors should be preparing for the start of the school year, taking into account the changes in academic and educational procedures scheduled for implementation at universities this fall. Naturally we need to look at the prospects before us.
This meeting is taking place in one of the leading institutions of higher education in the country, the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. And, as I said, this choice is not fortuitous: the institute has created and sustained a long tradition of scientific innovation, and MEPhI’s current mission is innovative as well, both in terms of training specialists and in actual research activities.
I think that it is the right place to take up the issues that we have gathered to discuss today. We will be considering a very important and promising proposal, the development of a network of research-and-education centres. As you know, we are taking all these steps in order to further development in both fundamental and applied research, and ultimately to meet the basic demands, the basic needs of the Russian economy.
In the near future, our challenge is to lay the proper regulatory framework for the formation of a truly innovative infrastructure. And one of the keys to the formation of this infrastructure is right here.
To begin the conversation, I have laid out five points, which I think are important in this context.
The first is promoting in every possible way competitiveness in academic schools.
We need to recognise that the international credibility of fundamental research in Russian schools remains high, but not in every sphere. And our task is to strengthen its authority. Naturally we are obliged to support fundamental research in the education system and we will do so. But it is vital to support the leaders of the field, those who can break from the pack and ensure the highest level of scientific research. This is particularly true in the priority areas that are spelled out clearly and in detail in the federal targeted programme [Academics for an Innovative Russia] and the Programme for Fundamental Scientific Research in State Academies.
To support competitiveness in scientific institutions we need to introduce more extensively the principle of competitive distribution of public finances. This would be done on the basis of an independent, non-affiliated examination. To make such a mechanism work, a state-funded Programme for Fundamental Scientific Research for academic institutions, universities and other research organisations has been suggested. I would like to discuss this topic today in more detail.
The next challenge is the training and consolidation of Russia's new generation academics. This challenge is no less serious than the one I spoke about yesterday. We have big problems with managers, in both the public and private sectors, but proper training for academic personnel is just as important.
Today, the issue is vitally important. By the way, the situation is often critical in those sectors that already have global recognition, such as the natural sciences and technology.
One of the reasons for this – not the only one but one of them — is the growing gap between academic, university and industry science. Not everywhere, but in very many institutions of higher education the level of academic research has fallen, and not only the level of academic research, but also the interest in it. Of course, this is primarily due to the lack of an adequate funding system and our inability to encourage teachers to engage in research activities. As a result many teachers have lost their research skills.
Obviously we absolutely have to reverse this trend. A number of significant measures have already been proposed here, including the recently adopted special federal programme Academics for an Innovative Russia for the years 2009–2013.
The third thing that I would like to identify is that there is a need in full-fledged grant support to the integration of research and educational organisations. We need a range of systems that provide grants. There is emerging a general system for the whole country. In recent years, we have done some things in this area. But we need to further develop the granting system. I hope that the establishment of a National Award for scientific achievements among young scientists will play a positive role in this regard. I announced this award when I handed out this year’s National Awards. A decree has been prepared on the subject.
The fourth thing is the need for a separate set of measures to attract to our country scientific and educational personnel from the world’s leading research and educational centres. We cannot stew in our own juice all the time, even with the most profound respect for our traditions and our scientific research schools. The much discussed educational mobility should manifest itself in research as well. In one sense there has been this sort of mobility for some time now in Russia. Lots of academics leave our country but no one comes to it. It is time to change this situation. We need to have the necessary contacts. There has to be mobility, but it must work in both directions.
And, finally, an organisational issue, the fifth point. This is the reason we are meeting today, the formation of a network of new research-and-education centres, which includes new federal universities. We need to definitively determine which universities in the regions can participate in such a network.
You will recall that under the auspices of the national project Education, it was decided to establish two universities: in the Southern Federal District in Rostov-on-Don and the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk. In fact, today we have made the decision to establish such a university in the Far East. In the near future we will consider the possibility of setting up such universities in Yekaterinburg in the Urals, in the Volga region using Kazan’s educational institutions, and in Kaliningrad.
The traditional national universities can become part of the network of new research-and-education centres, the ones that can also be described as research centres essentially on their own. We will also provide priority support for them as for centres that concentrate on Russian science.
We could attribute such status to a number of important universities, leading Russian universities such as Moscow State University, St Petersburg State University and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Along with that, we will be also taking real steps towards the creation of specialised universities. In particular, it can be the Nuclear University to be organised on the basis of MEPhI, or the Technological University – on the basis of the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys. But we must think about a system of competitive bidding.
Moreover, we need carefully worked out proposals to establish three or four world-class research centres. The [Russian Research Centre] Kurchatov Institute is a good example of this.
Everyone knows what the criteria for establishing new academic centres are. They should be established on the basis of priority areas of research in collaboration with leading scientific organisations and research centres. And there is another condition, the diversification of sources of funding. Obviously, this is a difficult, serious undertaking. I do think that to build a network of new research-and-education centres we need to proceed cautiously. That is what we are doing now by discussing these things. When we talk about creating or revitalising work that is already ongoing, we have to think whether it is a natural thing to do. It’s easy to just draw up plans for new universities. But we need real research-and-education centres. If we have what it takes for this … And what does it take? First and foremost it’s people, people and technical capabilities. More specifically, the latter is the land, buildings and unfortunately not very good equipment, which has come down to us from the past. Now some things are being done in this area, but in establishing this network of academic centres, we must focus on our real possibilities. It is therefore necessary to establish long-term development programmes for such centres, as well as to provide a mechanism for increased funding based on the monitoring of their activities. Obviously we have to come up with a schedule. How are we going to proceed? What are our prospects? When will we realise the goals that we’ll be setting for ourselves?
That is the agenda. I suggest that we get to work.
Minister [of Education and Science] Andrei Alexandrovich [Fursenko] has the floor. Please go ahead.