MOSCOW, May 28 (Itar-Tass) - The General Meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) is opening in Moscow on Tuesday. For the first time over the past 22 years the RAS president will be elected. The need to elect a new head of the academy arose after its head Yuri Osipov announced that he resigns. The election will be held on Wednesday, May 29. The results of the secret ballot in the RAS president election will be announced in the evening of the same day.
On the first day of the “congress of academics” its participants are to hear and discuss the report of the Chief Scientific Secretary of the RAS Presidium, Academician Valery Kostyuk “On the activities of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2008 - 2012.” Then the awarding of diplomas and gold medals, which bear the names of prominent scientists will be held, as well as the major annual RAS award - the Lomonosov Grand Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences for 2012 will be handed.
Academician Vladimir Fortov who was nominated by seven branches of the RAS and who became the candidate of the Presidium of the Academy, as well as RAS Vice Presidents Zhores Alferov and Alexander Nekipelov are candidates for the post of the RAS president. To win the election a candidate is required to receive 50 percent plus one vote. If, according to the election regulation, “no candidate is elected in the first round, then the second round is held with the two candidates who received the largest number of votes. If after the second round no candidate is elected, then a third round is held with the candidacy who received the largest number of votes.”
Theoretically, there is a possibility that the candidate in the third round will not get the absolute majority. In such a case a new election will be held in a few months. And the candidatures that failed to pass on the voting results will not be able to run.
In any case, members of the Academy told Itar-Tass, the current meeting will be different from the others not so much by the election of the RAS head, as by the fact that any new president of the Academy will have to crucially change the format of its relations with the authorities. And that is the main background that determines the future voting.
The thing is that in recent years, the main scientific organisation of the country has accumulated many problems. Scientists agree that many of them emerged due to the fact that the Academy first of all needed to survive during the years of general collapse and crisis. However, they are grateful to the outgoing President Yuri Osipov for preserving the Academy. Today, however, as it was often mentioned during the discussion of new candidates at meetings of RAS departments, it is necessary to move to a new strategy - the strategy of development. But it is not easy, because in recent years the Academy has not been included in the number of scientific institutions that received the bulk of funding. According to Academician Fortov, the RAS accounts for about 20 percent of the allocated state scientific budget funds. As a result, according to Alexander Nekipelov, “The lion’s share of our budget is spent on salaries, and almost nothing is left for upgrading of the equipment.”
“The new leadership of the Academy of Sciences should first of all succeed in getting more funding,” head of the Department of Mathematical Physics at the Lebedev Physical Institute and Professor of the University of Arizona (USA) Vladimir Zakharov told Itar-Tass. “Whatever they say, but if there is no normal financing - there will be no science. Simply because the brain drain will continue,” he stressed, adding that “even in Poland the salaries of professors are higher than in our country.” Academician Zakharov believes that the second most important task is “the protection of scientists from the bureaucratic zeal of officials.” “Officials, even in the role of effective managers often do not understand the specifics of scientific work,” he said. “They tend to adopt some laws that just impede the development of the national research instead of helping it.”
Director of the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Chubaryan drew attention to the need for internal reform in the Academy. “The Academy has two tasks,” he believes. “One is to continue the policy that fundamental science is the national treasure. As of today, there is no other research centre of the kind in our country. The second problem is, responding to the challenges of the time, to think about how to correspond to the innovations existing in the world of science. So it is necessary to think about internal reforms in the Academy.”
The fact is that any structure, if it is not developed and is not modified, is stagnating, said the scientist. “So we should think about how to develop new forms of activity in the Academy,” he said. “It is necessary to reform the organisational structure. Strengthen the role of competition in the activities of the Academy, so that we could stimulate the most talented researchers.” “The third point - it’s rejuvenation,” Academician Chubaryan said. “It is necessary to give young people the opportunity to prove themselves.”
One of the most important tasks of the RAS is to ensure the permanent and deep connection with education, believes Chubaryan who is the supervisor of the scientific work on the preparation of a unified school history textbook. “It should be a new form of integration of science and education,” Chubaryan said. “The Academy of Sciences should assume responsibility for drastic improvement in the quality of education, even in secondary school. And it makes it closer to the society.”
At the same time, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Aldoshin, referring to his recent meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, said that he sees quite clear prospects for the strengthening the interaction between the Academy and the state. “Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev praised the role of the RAS in the development of national high technology and expressed his willingness to support our proposals and projects, as well as his willingness to help the Academy solve its problems. As for the election of the head of the Russian Academy of Sciences, he stressed that all the nominated candidates are worthy, and with every contender the government will focus on active, serious work.”
The General Meeting of the RAS will end on Saturday, June 1, with the election of a new Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences.”